Dissecting Flowers Experiment
Besides adding beauty and colour to the garden, flowers play an essential role in our ecosystem; they feed our pollinators who in turn feed us. In fact, our bees help produce one-third of all the food on Earth! It’s safe to say that behind every successful crop is a good flower, so let’s get the kids up and close and personal with Mother Nature’s gems. Check out this DIY flower dissection experiment that teaches kids about plant anatomy, the importance of flowers, and gives them a blossoming good reason to enjoy the September sun.
Flowers are so much more than just pretty faces. They help maintain your garden’s delicate biome balance and bring in all sorts of benefits that enrich other plants, while also sustaining the friendly creatures that live there.
- Critter food: The pollen and nectar produced by flowers feed birds, bees, butterflies, and other essential insects. With full tummies, these handy helpers pollinate our crops in return as well as help to spread seeds.
- Human food: Bees also use pollen to make honey, and what would the world be without this sweet delicacy! Also, flowers from edible plants indicate that the fruit or veg is on its way and can also be cooked in a stew or added to salads.
- Pest control: Having a variety of flowers is the easiest way to combat pests in the garden. They attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, wasps, prey mantises and many more, who feast on all the aphids and lice that damage the garden.
- Reproduction: The flower is the reproductive organ of a plant. Seeds are produced in flowers, which mean that more of that plant will grow. In the case of edibles, flowers are essential as this is where our food comes from.
Did you know? The Archaefructus Sinensis, known also as the Mother of All Flowers, is believed to be the world’s oldest flower. Discovered by archaeologists in a fossil back in 2002, it was believed to bloom more than 125 million years ago in China.
Bring in the beauts
Here are some epic pollinator attractors that you can plant to help feed the bees and improve your own garden’s ecosystem, pest control, and gorgeousness!
- Borage, butterfly bush, coneflower, cow parsnip, dahlias, daisies, dandelions, goldenrods, lavender, marigold, milkweed (the Monarch butterfly’s fave for breeding), snapdragon, and sunflowers.
Top tip: All friendly critters will appreciate a drink of freshwater after a hard day’s work. Help them out by providing a water source nearby with a way in and out for your friends. While you’re at it, why not upcycle a 2l bottle into a hanging bird feeder.
Send the kids outdoors with a container and a pair of scissors. They need to collect at least 3 large flowers for maximum learning and supercharged fun.
You will need
- Any 3 large flowers in bloom now
- A magnifying glass
- Some paper plates
- A marker
- A phone or tablet with internet connectivity
Begin the division
- Examine the flower closely under the magnifying glass and see how many parts you can identify on your own.
- Use your marker to write down the flowing plant parts on the paper plates. To limit wastage, try fitting three labels per plate.
a) Leaf b) Stem c) Seed d) Petal e) Stigma f) Fruit/bud g) Stamen h) Ovary i) Pollen
- Begin dissecting your first flower by carefully removing all the parts. Place the ones you know on the paper plate under the correct label.
- Kids can use a phone or table to research the rest of the plant’s anatomy. Find out where/what each part is and then correctly identify and label the remaining flower pieces.
- With your flower anatomy nicely sorted and understood, it’s time for the next challenge. See if you can reassemble your flower and remember the name and function of each part.
- Repeat this process with the two other flowers. Dissecting and labelling should be much easier the second and third time around and will certainly help kids with memory recall.
- Time for show and tell! Give kids the opportunity to showcase their work and pretend to be little scientist, giving a talk about the fascinating parts of a flower. Get them to show you their anatomy collection and ask them questions about all the different functions.
- When you’re done, add the plant parts to the compost heap or dip them in water paint and make some pretty flower impressions on paper or on a card as a gift.
Flowering fun facts
Certain flowers have special markings on their petals to guide the right pollinators to the good stuff.
- Iris flowers have bright yellow markings near the base of the petals (called signals), that literally point the way for bees to land. These landing strips can also be marked out in ultraviolet on otherwise plain flowers invisible to the human eye, but oh so alluring to bees.
- Gazania flowers employ a different strategy - they have conspicuous dark spots near the base of their petals mimicking monkey beetles, as males actively search for female beetles in flowers.
- Some orchids have devised particularly devious ways to attract pollinators with their flowers resembling female wasps and even emitting a potent chemical that mimics female pheromones.
Bees can also sense a flowers’ electric field. Bees build up a positive charge buzzing through the air, whereas flowers have a slightly negative charge, helping pollen transfer from the flower to the bee and helping them to sense which flowers have already been visited.