Discovery Place Science
“The first blooms of spring always make my heart sing.” — S. Brown
It is springtime with nature bursting back to life! Flowers are blooming, painting the world in vibrant, brilliant colors and filling the air with floral perfumes. There is no better time to venture outdoors and take a moment to pause and admire nature’s splendor.
But do flowers only exist to make plants look and smell pretty? Not quite! Although certainly beautiful, flowers’ main function is reproduction, which means they help create more plants by growing seeds and attracting pollinators like bees.
Have you ever closely examined a flower in detail? You might have noticed that flowers are made of many different parts, each with a specific purpose. In this activity, you will explore these questions and learn all about flower anatomy by dissecting, or taking apart, a daffodil and identifying its parts piece by piece.
Age range: Elementary
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Learning time: 20-30 minutes
- Fresh daffodil flowers
- Tray or plate
- Gloves (optional)
- Magnifying glass (optional)
- Flower anatomy diagrams
- Dissection worksheet
- Collect and arrange all dissection materials. The flower anatomy diagrams and dissection worksheet can be viewed virtually or printed to reference while completing the activity.
- Select daffodil flowers with intact male (stamen) and female (pistil) plant parts. If you are allergic to daffodils, you should use an alternative flower for this activity. Lilies are a great option.
- Remember to wear gloves or wash your hands very well following dissection, as daffodils can irritate the skin. Daffodils are poisonous if swallowed, so please keep the daffodil away from your mouth.
1. Before reaching for the scissors, start by taking a long, close look at your daffodil. You can use a magnifying glass (if available) to see even more details.
What is the first thing you notice? Can you see the two layers of petals that give the daffodil its classic shape? These two layers are the petals and inner trumpet called the corona. The brown papery covering at the flower’s base is called the spathe, which wraps around and protects the bud until the flower is ready to open.
Using the flower anatomy diagrams and dissection worksheet, go through the different parts of the flower and identify each on your daffodil. Can you find all the daffodil parts or do some remain hidden? Try to label as many parts of the daffodil as you can before you start dissecting.
2. Begin dissection with the stem, also called the peduncle. The stem is a long stalk that provides structure and helps transport water and nutrients through the flower. How many peduncles, or stems, does the daffodil have?
3. Check your daffodil stem for leaves. Leaves produce food for the plant by photosynthesis, a process that creates plant nutrients from light, carbon dioxide and water.
4. Next, look for the sepals, which are small leaves at the base of the petals that protect the bud before it blossoms. Carefully pull off the sepals and spread them out to better see their shape. How many sepals does your daffodil have? Are the sepals more like leaves or petals?
5. Move to the daffodil petals. Petals are the brightly colored leaves we often think of when we picture flowers. These special leaves evolved over thousands of years to attract the attention of pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds and humans.
Carefully peel the outer petals then the corona from the flower, laying them out so you can take a closer look. You will now be able to see the inside parts of the flower – the male stamen and female pistil reproductive parts required to make more daffodil plants.
5. Look for the stamen, each of which is made up of a slender filament (long stalk) and round anther (pollen covered tip). The anther produces pollen, the bright yellow or orange dust that pollinators carry from one plant to another when looking for nectar inside a flower.
6. Finally, move onto the pistil with the stigma, style (long tube) and ovary. First find the stigma, which is sticky to retain pollen transferred from another flower. The stigma is attached to the style, which is a tube-like structure. At the base of the style is the ovary.
Ask an adult to carefully cut at the base of the pistil to get to the ovary. When a pollen grain lands on the stigma, the grain grows a tube that extends down into the ovary to fertilize ovules, producing fruit as well as seeds.
As you can see, a flower is much more than a lovely sight. It is essential for a plant to create its offspring!
Be a Pollinator:
Grab a paintbrush and head outdoors to continue learning! Visit a patch of flowers and become pollinators – just like bees, butterflies and birds – by helping spread pollen from one flower to another. Use your paintbrush to pick up pollen from the anther of one flower, then carry it to the stigma of another flower of the same species.
Pollination is the process that gives us fruit as well as seeds to keep producing new plants. Without pollination and pollinators like honeybees, butterflies and birds, humans would be in big trouble! That’s why it’s helpful to cut down on pesticide use near our homes and gardens and to eat organic when we can.
Learn more about flowers and pollinators with a visit to Discovery Place Nature!