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The Power of Plants: Botanical Weightlifters

Youth Education - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 9:48am

There are things I look forward to seeing every season.

In spring, I watch for “mighty plants” that emerge from the ground with enough force to heave the soil above ground. These botanical weightlifters—the bulbs, grasses, and other emergent plants—pushing up soil that was compressed by a blanket of snow never fail to impress me. I am in awe of the strength of plants. 

 Daffodil leaves have pushed through the mulch, lifting it off the ground.

Daffodil leaves erupted from the ground in March and lifted the mulch in the beds around the Regenstein Learning Campus.

Seeing bulbs coming up all around me inspires lots of questions. I want to understand how this is possible and I want to test their strength. So I spent a few weeks playing around with this phenomenon in the Learning Center’s Boeing Nature Laboratory. 

To begin, I wanted to demonstrate that seeds will lift soil in a pot. I soaked bunch of wheat seeds overnight and planted them in a pot. I covered them with a generous amount of potting soil (about a 1/2-inch layer) and I tamped the soil down gently so that it would be compressed—like the topsoil might be after a winter of snow cover. Three days later, I had results! I sprayed the soil disk to give it a little adhesion, so I could see how long it would hold together as the grass lifted it up.

 A few days after planting the soaked wheat seeds, they are already sprouting and pushing up the soil.

Day 3 after planting the seeds: They are pushing up the compressed layer of soil.

 The wheat leaves have grown to an inch over the pot and are holding up a disk of soil.

Day 4: The leaves have pushed the soil up a little more.

 The wheat is 2-3 inches above the pot and still suspending the disk of soil.

Day 5: The soil is light and there are a lot of wheat plants, so they continue to lift the soil.

 The grass is now 4-5 inches tall and the disk of soil is on top, but leaning to the side, about to fall off.

Day 6: “Get off me, Soil! – Umph!”

 The disk of soil that was lifted by the grass has fallen to the side of the pot.

Day 7: Phew!

That was so much fun, I tried the same thing with a bunch of bean seeds.

 the top of the soil is rising about a half inch out of the pot.

Bean sprouts pushing…

 the sprouting beans can be seen pushing up the top of the soil, now 1-2 inches over the top of the pot.

…pushing…

 a dozen bean plants are growing out of the pot and pushing the top soil disk to the side.

…and bursting from inside the pot.

This demonstration was pretty easy and impressive. It is a simple activity to illustrate how plants and other living things change their environment to suit their needs (which is a disciplinary core idea in Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten). I recommend doing it in the classroom or at home, just for fun.

This is just the beginning. I will be sharing the results in a future blog post. But before I do, I would like to make a few points about the nature of science and how scientists work. 

  1. Science is a collection of established facts and ideas about the world, gathered over hundreds of years. It is also the process by which these facts are learned. Science is both “knowing” and “doing.”
  2. Discoveries start when you watch nature and ask questions, as I did in watching spring bulbs come up. Before beginning an experiment, scientists play. They mess around with materials and concoct crazy ideas. They are constantly asking, “I wonder what will happen if I do ___ ?” That is when discoveries actually happen.
  3. Scientists do formal experiments with purpose, hypothesis, procedures, results, and conclusions after they think they have made a discovery. They use the experiment to test their discovery and provide convincing evidence to support it. In some cases, the experiment disproves a fact or idea, which is a different kind of new understanding about the world. 

I have to agree with Boyce Tankersley, the Garden’s director of Living Plant Documentation, who recently wrote “The SciFi Rant.” Those of us who lean toward botany instead of horticulture are more interested in growing plants to yield ideas rather than meals. In my continuing investigation, I have two goals, and neither is to produce anything to eat.

First, I want to determine the strength of sprouting seeds and see how far I can push them. For example, how many bean sprouts will it take to lift a coconut? I want to find a standard way to measure seed strength.

Second, I want to establish a reliable method for experimenting with seed strength so teachers and students can replicate the procedure, modify it as needed, and use it for their own investigations without going through the awkward phase of figuring out the best way to do this.

 a 6 inch square pot is topped with a round plastic lid and a coconut.

Will the mighty beans sprouting under this menacing coconut have the power to lift it off the top edge of a pot? Stay tuned…

I invite you on my journey.
(To be continued.)

©2018 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Power of Plants: Botanical Weightlifters

Garden Blog - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 9:48am

There are things I look forward to seeing every season.

In spring, I watch for “mighty plants” that emerge from the ground with enough force to heave the soil above ground. These botanical weightlifters—the bulbs, grasses, and other emergent plants—pushing up soil that was compressed by a blanket of snow never fail to impress me. I am in awe of the strength of plants. 

 Daffodil leaves have pushed through the mulch, lifting it off the ground.

Daffodil leaves erupted from the ground in March and lifted the mulch in the beds around the Regenstein Learning Campus.

Seeing bulbs coming up all around me inspires lots of questions. I want to understand how this is possible and I want to test their strength. So I spent a few weeks playing around with this phenomenon in the Learning Center’s Boeing Nature Laboratory. 

To begin, I wanted to demonstrate that seeds will lift soil in a pot. I soaked bunch of wheat seeds overnight and planted them in a pot. I covered them with a generous amount of potting soil (about a 1/2-inch layer) and I tamped the soil down gently so that it would be compressed—like the topsoil might be after a winter of snow cover. Three days later, I had results! I sprayed the soil disk to give it a little adhesion, so I could see how long it would hold together as the grass lifted it up.

 A few days after planting the soaked wheat seeds, they are already sprouting and pushing up the soil.

Day 3 after planting the seeds: They are pushing up the compressed layer of soil.

 The wheat leaves have grown to an inch over the pot and are holding up a disk of soil.

Day 4: The leaves have pushed the soil up a little more.

 The wheat is 2-3 inches above the pot and still suspending the disk of soil.

Day 5: The soil is light and there are a lot of wheat plants, so they continue to lift the soil.

 The grass is now 4-5 inches tall and the disk of soil is on top, but leaning to the side, about to fall off.

Day 6: “Get off me, Soil! – Umph!”

 The disk of soil that was lifted by the grass has fallen to the side of the pot.

Day 7: Phew!

That was so much fun, I tried the same thing with a bunch of bean seeds.

 the top of the soil is rising about a half inch out of the pot.

Bean sprouts pushing…

 the sprouting beans can be seen pushing up the top of the soil, now 1-2 inches over the top of the pot.

…pushing…

 a dozen bean plants are growing out of the pot and pushing the top soil disk to the side.

…and bursting from inside the pot.

This demonstration was pretty easy and impressive. It is a simple activity to illustrate how plants and other living things change their environment to suit their needs (which is a disciplinary core idea in Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten). I recommend doing it in the classroom or at home, just for fun.

This is just the beginning. I will be sharing the results in a future blog post. But before I do, I would like to make a few points about the nature of science and how scientists work. 

  1. Science is a collection of established facts and ideas about the world, gathered over hundreds of years. It is also the process by which these facts are learned. Science is both “knowing” and “doing.”
  2. Discoveries start when you watch nature and ask questions, as I did in watching spring bulbs come up. Before beginning an experiment, scientists play. They mess around with materials and concoct crazy ideas. They are constantly asking, “I wonder what will happen if I do ___ ?” That is when discoveries actually happen.
  3. Scientists do formal experiments with purpose, hypothesis, procedures, results, and conclusions after they think they have made a discovery. They use the experiment to test their discovery and provide convincing evidence to support it. In some cases, the experiment disproves a fact or idea, which is a different kind of new understanding about the world. 

I have to agree with Boyce Tankersley, the Garden’s director of Living Plant Documentation, who recently wrote “The SciFi Rant.” Those of us who lean toward botany instead of horticulture are more interested in growing plants to yield ideas rather than meals. In my continuing investigation, I have two goals, and neither is to produce anything to eat.

First, I want to determine the strength of sprouting seeds and see how far I can push them. For example, how many bean sprouts will it take to lift a coconut? I want to find a standard way to measure seed strength.

Second, I want to establish a reliable method for experimenting with seed strength so teachers and students can replicate the procedure, modify it as needed, and use it for their own investigations without going through the awkward phase of figuring out the best way to do this.

 a 6 inch square pot is topped with a round plastic lid and a coconut.

Will the mighty beans sprouting under this menacing coconut have the power to lift it off the top edge of a pot? Stay tuned…

I invite you on my journey.
(To be continued.)

©2018 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Stanhopea book / Rudolf Jenny.

New Book Arrivals - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 9:00am
The Stanhopea book / Rudolf Jenny.
Author: Jenny, Rudolf, author.
Call Number: QK495.O64J466 2010

Oaks physiological ecology : exploring the functional diversity of genus Quercus L. / Eustaqio Gil-Pelegrín, José Javier Peguero-Pina, Domingo Sancho-Knapik, editors.

New Book Arrivals - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 9:00am
Oaks physiological ecology : exploring the functional diversity of genus Quercus L. / Eustaqio Gil-Pelegrín, José Javier Peguero-Pina, Domingo Sancho-Knapik, editors.
Call Number: QK495.F14O28 2017

Herbs : Growing, drying and using herbs - from cooking to cosmetics / editor: Magda Ironside Wood, text: Cynthia Wickham, illustrator: Sue Richards.

New Book Arrivals - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 9:00am
Herbs : Growing, drying and using herbs - from cooking to cosmetics / editor: Magda Ironside Wood, text: Cynthia Wickham, illustrator: Sue Richards.
Author: Wickham, Cynthia, author.
Call Number: SB351.H5W53 1975

Life of a plant hunter / Hans Nooteboom.

New Book Arrivals - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 9:00am
Life of a plant hunter / Hans Nooteboom.
Author: Nooteboom, H. P., author.
Call Number: QK31.N66A3 2018

Waterfowl Watch

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 10:00am

Peer through a spotting scope and watch for migratory waterfowl.

The post Waterfowl Watch appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Success with succulents : choosing, growing, and caring for cactuses and other succulents / John Bagnasco, Bob Reidmuller.

New Book Arrivals - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 7:00am
Success with succulents : choosing, growing, and caring for cactuses and other succulents / John Bagnasco, Bob Reidmuller.
Author: Bagnasco, John, author.
Call Number: SB438.B246 2017

Room to bloom / by Jessica Young ; illustrated by Jessica Secheret.

New Book Arrivals - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 7:00am
Room to bloom / by Jessica Young ; illustrated by Jessica Secheret.
Author: Young, Jessica (Jessica E.), author.
Call Number: PZ7.Y8657Ro 2018

Kaempfer's Japan : Tokugawa culture observed / by Engelbert Kaempfer ; edited, translated, and annotated by Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey.

New Book Arrivals - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 7:00am
Kaempfer's Japan : Tokugawa culture observed / by Engelbert Kaempfer ; edited, translated, and annotated by Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey.
Author: Kaempfer, Engelbert, 1651-1716.
Call Number: DS822.2.K34 1999

Butterfly gardening : the North American Butterfly Association guide / Jane Hurwitz.

New Book Arrivals - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 7:00am
Butterfly gardening : the North American Butterfly Association guide / Jane Hurwitz.
Author: Hurwitz, Jane (Butterfly gardening expert), author.
Call Number: QL544.6.H87 2018

A peaceful garden / words by Lucy London ; pictures by Christa Pierce.

New Book Arrivals - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 7:00am
A peaceful garden / words by Lucy London ; pictures by Christa Pierce.
Author: London, Lucy, author.
Call Number: PZ7.1.L6643Pe 2018

Many : the diversity of life on Earth / Nicola Davies ; illustrated by Emily Sutton.

New Book Arrivals - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 7:00am
Many : the diversity of life on Earth / Nicola Davies ; illustrated by Emily Sutton.
Author: Davies, Nicola, 1958- author.
Call Number: QH541.15.B56D38 2017

Tuesday Mornings are for the Birds

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 8:00am

Bring your binoculars and enjoy the spring migration. We’ll visit Sand Ridge’s best birding spots and watch for some colorful warblers.

The post Tuesday Mornings are for the Birds appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The new farm : our ten years on the front lines of the good food revolution / Brent Preston.

New Book Arrivals - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 7:00am
The new farm : our ten years on the front lines of the good food revolution / Brent Preston.
Author: Preston, Brent, 1969- author.
Call Number: S501.2.P74 2018

Journal of the International Garden Club.

New Book Arrivals - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 7:00am
Journal of the International Garden Club.

Lustgården : årsskrift för Föreningen för dendrologi och parkvård.

New Book Arrivals - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 7:00am
Lustgården : årsskrift för Föreningen för dendrologi och parkvård.

Zeitschrift für obst-, wein- und gartenbau.

New Book Arrivals - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 7:00am
Zeitschrift für obst-, wein- und gartenbau.

Zeitschrift für obst- und gartenbau.

New Book Arrivals - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 7:00am
Zeitschrift für obst- und gartenbau.

Ornithology 101: Beginning Bird ID

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 03/31/2018 - 1:00pm

Learn how to use field marks such as eye rings, wing bars, and size to aid in bird identification.

The post Ornithology 101: Beginning Bird ID appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

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