Some recent windy weather had left some bent and broken, sad looking daffodils in my garden. So that they didn’t go to waste, I put a few in a vase inside and also thought it would be good to take a closer look. I normally use alstromerias for plant and flower dissections (lots of flowers per plant so plenty for a class), however, daffodils work well too. Just remember to wash your hands well afterwards, or wear gloves, as daffodils can irritate the skin and are poisonous, so keep away from your mouth.
Remember not to pick flowers when you are out and about and always ask a grown up if you can have one from the garden. You could also use tulips or lilies, but these are also poisonous so keep them well away from your mouth and wash your hands really well afterwards or wear gloves.
Taking a closer look
Now, let’s take a closer look at that flower. The daffodil has two layers of petals, including the modified inner corona (crown), or trumpet, which gives the daffodil it’s classic shape. At the base of the flower is a papery covering, called the spathe. this wraps up the bud before the flower is ready to open. You can carefully pick the spathe and the petals off and lay them out so that we can see the shape better. When I’m doing this with children in school, I usually have a piece of double-sided sticky tape across the page so that students can stick the flower parts directly onto it to keep them safe. If you’re doing this at home, you don’t need to stick them down as you are less likely to lose them when there aren’t 30 other children!
You can now see that the corona looks like a tube enclosing the inner part of the flower. Carefully cut or tear this to remove it and lay that out on the piece of paper too. We are left with the inside parts of the flower, the male and female parts, which are needed to make new daffodil plants.
Arranged around the outside are six stamens, comprising the filament (the stalk-like bit) and the anther – the pollen-covered end. The pollen is needed to fertilise the female part of the plant, to make seeds to grow new plants*.
*As well as growing from seeds, plants such as daffodils, lillies and tulips also grow from bulbs. A bulb is a storage organ, allowing the plant to be dormant over winter and then grow again in spring.
The female part of the plant is called the pistil and comprises the style (the long tube) and the stigma at the top, as well as the ovary and ovules. The stigma is sticky and you might find some grains of pollen stuck here. The pollen then travels down the tube (style) to the ovules inside the ovary at the base of the flower.
The pollen fertilises the ovules to make seeds.
As the flowers die, the ovary swells as the seeds develop.
You can see all the different parts of the flower laid out on your piece of paper. Can you label them?
As daffodils are insect-pollinated, they rely on insects travelling from flower to flower collecting nectar, picking up pollen from the anthers along the way and depositing it on the stigma of other flowers. Other types of plants might be wind-pollinated, or even use birds or bats (or other insects) to pollinate their flowers!
Another way to get a closer look at the parts of a flower is to carefully cut the flower in half. Ask a grown up to use a sharp knife to carefully cut down the middle, including the ovary and stem. You can see the different parts clearly:
Why don’t you have a go at investigating the different parts of a flower today? You could use a magnifying glass, take a photograph and label it, and have a go at some observational drawing, too.
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