Posts Tagged ‘ Kids experiment ’

When plants eat insects, where do they go? A carnivorous plant dissection experiment for kids. When Love Bites

Posted on: January 14th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Do plants have stomachs and teeth? How are they able to catch prey like other carnivores if they can’t run? And when they catch insects, where do they go? These are mind-baffling questions indeed and certainly worthy of a little hands-on investigation! Scientists, biologists, and creepy-crawler lovers, are you ready to find out what happens when love bites this February? Eeeeew!

Did you know?

Carnivorous plants, also known as insectivorous plants, are those which get their nutrition by catching and digesting insects. How cool is that? Carnivory in plants is owing to centuries of evolution, driven by pure instinct to survive in areas with nitrogen-poor soil. There are over 600 known species of insectivorous plants around the world, time to get yours!

The deadliest devils

Here are a few carnivorous contenders that will make the perfect dissection specimen.

  1. Sundew: These bad boys exude a sticky substance that attracts and then traps insects and other small prey. Their meal is quickly swallowed by a web of tiny tentacles and digested by enzymes within the plant stems and leaves.
  2. Venus Fly Trap: One of the most popular meat-eaters with trigger-sensitive, dangerous jaws! They use sweet nectar to attract their prey and then with interlocking teeth, trap their victims. Digestive enzymes get to work as the plant absorbs a lovely nutritious soup.
  3. American Trumpet Pitcher: This cleaver funnel-like plant hunts using a pit-fall trap. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the top of the leaves. Unlucky for them, the nectar is poisonous, sending their intoxicated bodies tumbling down the funnel.
  4. Tropical Pitcher Plant: Similar to the beastie above but more sack-like in appearance. They too attract insects using sweet intoxicating nectar. Prey slip on the rims of the plant, falling into a pool of death and soon drowning inside a sticky acidic liquid. The horror!
Sundew, carnivorous plant, kids diy, school experiment
sundew, carnivore plant, diy, experiment
Venus fly trap, carnivourous plant, diy, experiment
Venus fly trap, carnivorous plant, dissecting
American Trumpet Pitcher, carnivorous plants, dissecting, experiment
American Trumpet Pitcher, dissecting carnivorous plants
Topical pitcher plant, dissecting carnivorous plants
Tropical pitcher plant, dissecting carnivorous plants

Experiment essentials:

  • A carnivorous plant
  • Crickets or similar small insects and a container to catch them in
  • Scissors
  • A sharp knife
  • Magnifying glass
What you need, experiment, dissecting carnivorous plants
Insects, dissecting carnivorous plants

The dissection process:

  • Approach your plant with caution, bringing your prey as a peace offering. Know what method your plant uses to hunt and eat so that you can position your insect in the right place.
  • Once you can see that your plant has taken the bait, give it about an hour and then, off with its head!
  • Cut the plant close to the base using a pair of scissors.
  • Use your knife to make a sleek slit down the plant, from leaf/flower top to the bottom of the stem. Open it up gently with your fingers.
  • Grab your magnifying glass and check out that exco-skeleton! You should be able to see the insect remains nicely (and a few other unfortunates down there too).

A meaty-must-know: Make sure you know how your deadly devil likes their soil so that you can home them for good and keep adding to the collection. They flourish in “poor” moist soil with some acidity that activates their instinct to source nitrogen from insects.

Insect, life is a garden , dissecting carnivorous plants
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants, experiment
Dissecting carnivorous plants

This experiment is loaded with opportunities for exploration, discovery, and independent learning for the hungry young mind. Inspire your child to get in the garden and show them how awesome the natural world can be. Caring for a carnivorous plant is like having an exotic pet and requires much more attention than your average pot plant. Investing in one of these for the kids is a fantastic long-term project with countless “oh my word, it just ate a… coooool!”. #TeamGreenIsWinning

Carnivore plants, dissecting

Make your own reindeer staghorn this holiday season DIY Activity - Decorating a staghorn fern

Posted on: November 19th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

December holidays are great for getting creative with your kids. Here are 7 easy steps to make your own staghorn mount reindeer decoration.

Like orchids, the staghorn fern (Platycerium) is an epiphyte, which means they do not require soil to grow but attach to and gain nutrients from other plants, while not harming the host plant. They have two sets of leaves that grow, sterile and fertile. The sterile leaves usually form a flat shield that covers the roots and helps it attach to a support. While they might look like they are dead — they aren’t. Do not pick these leaves off! The fertile leaves emerge from the centre of the shield-like leaves and form the staghorn ‘antlers’ that gives this fern its name.

After just a short trip to your local GCA Garden Centre, you can make this gorgeous mounted reindeer staghorn fern to add some holiday cheer to your home this Christmas. Why not make more than one? They are stunning as gifts.

All you will need is the following:

  • Staghorn fern
  • Mounting board – We used a split log, but you could use any flat piece of wood
  • A bag of green moss
  • Some small nails
  • Wall mounting device of your choice – this may depend on the surface you decide to mount on
  • Twine, fishing line or wire
  • Hammer and possibly a screw driver
  • Red Christmas ball ornament
  • A reindeer face cut out and /or winking eyes
  • Coloured markers, crayons, pencils or paint to decorate your reindeer face
  • Glue, pins, double sided tape

Mounting A Staghorn Fern

Step one

First things first, you will want to set the hook that will attach to the wall. Whatever you decide to use is up to you and the mounting piece you decide on, but begin with placing that before anything else. We used two nails and a piece of twine, but you may prefer a picture frame hook.

Step two

Next, grab your nails and hammer in 4 to 6 small nails in a square or circular shape where you will be mounting the staghorn onto your chosen piece of wood. This will secure the plant on the mount.

Step three

Before you place the plant, it is important to loosen and prune the roots some. This helps better absorb moisture in its new environment as well as adapt to the new surface it will call home. After pruning make sure to water the plant.

Step four

Once you have pruned the plant, place the fern in the middle of the circle of nails. We also took into account the direction of leaves. By considering these details it will make the final presentation feel right. There is no wrong way, but sometimes one side of the plant will look better than another.

Now, grab the moss and pull apart a chunk, soak it slightly and make sure to squeeze out any drippy moisture. Wrap the moss around the base of the plant to contain the dirt and roots of the fern.

Step five

Once fully wrapped, cut a long piece of twine and tie a knot on a nail. Criss-cross the twine over the base of the plant and wrap it around the tops of the nails with each cross. This will be the only security the plant and moss have so make sure to hit every nail and wrap around the heads well. You could also use fishing line or wire. Choose whatever fits you and your style.  You may need to secure some of the leaves together at the base and angle them in the correct position to look most like reindeer antlers

Step six

Once the plant is well secured it will almost be ready to hang…. but first you need to add the reindeers face. Colour, decorate and assemble your chosen reindeer face, and/or eyes and nose. Now secure the face in the best location on your staghorn mount board so that the leaves of the fern resemble the reindeer’s antlers.  We used pins and double-sided tape to secure our reindeer face and/or eyes and ball ornament nose.

Step seven

Hang your reindeer staghorn mount in a prime position in your home to add holiday cheer.

To keep your plant healthy, check the moss every so often to make sure the moss is moist. The dryer your home, the more often you will need to water it. Make sure to also place it in a brighter room to allow enough sunlight, however it should not have direct sunlight. When you do water, spray them to give them a rain-like experience (be careful not to spray your reindeer face).

You can purchase your kids experiment items as well as get helpful advice from your local GCA Garden Centre. Stay up to date with all your garden care and inspiration. Join the conversation on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.