Market Science on May 23rd was a floral extravaganza!2015-05-23 09.43.12

Flowers are often the most noticeable parts of plants. Many flowers are meant to be attractive, not just to gardeners who choose the prettiest flowering plants to buy at the market, but also to various pollinators. Flowering plants surround their reproductive parts with showy petals, scents, or nectar rewards to entice animals to move their pollen around. Though some plants still used the tried and true wind dispersal method (similar to non-flowering plants, like pines).

Flower and not a flower:
Flowers vs cones. The male flowers of the oaks on the left dangle in catkins. The male pollen cones on the pine on the right are not flowers, but are also pollen-dispersing. But they are similar: both use wind to spread pollen.

We examined many different types of flowers at the market to find all of their parts. We even learned that sunflowers have large compound flowers (dandelions do, too). The next time you see a sunflower, check and see if you can see all of the many flowers within it.

Examining flowers
(Left) We looked at the anthers (pollen-bearing) and stigma of a lily under a microscope. (Right) We examined snapdragons to find their anthers tucked inside the petals for a bumblebee to stumble across.

We had cards to make a flower dissection and see all of the parts, but some budding botanists drew their own flowers.

(Left) A flower dissection of a snapdragon. (Right) Chalk art by a botanical artist that dissected flowers with us that Saturday.

We examined some reasons flowers appear in so many different forms.We asked visitors to take a silly personality quiz to find out what kind of flowers they would have (if they were flowering plants). Flowers are attempting to spread and collect pollen and different strategies are used. Flowers that open at night are often attracting moths or bats. Flowers that are open during the day and have a fresh scent may be attracting bees. Flowers that smell like rotting meat may be tricking flies into visiting. Most people are a wind-pollinated variety, but stinky fly-pollinated plants came in second!

What kind of flower do you have?
The results of the floral personality quiz!

We’ll get into all different kinds of pollinators on June 20! We’ll talk flowers and who is working for them then!

Dynamic trees: spring time responses from our neighborhood trees

We had a great first foray learning about trees on May 2.

Check out all of our pictures and lessons from our lessons on trees, water relations, and the great spring time transitions from dormant twigs to flowers, fruit, and leafy branches. 

The first day of the market was very busy, with customers lined up all around the booths and food trucks. We chatted with our fellow market-goers about the biological reasons for annual rings, tried our hand at aging cut trees, and explored the flowers, fruits, and new leaves of our local trees. Near the end of the market, as we were cleaning up our wilted twigs, a newly minted tree scientist stopped by to pick up a piece of a birch catkin and proclaim it as “flowers!”. And now an under-appreciated tree flower has a new fan.

We were represented by University of Minnesota scientists from the graduate programs in Plant Biology and Ecology, Evolution,  and Behavior and undergraduates from the College of Biological Sciences’ Health and Biological Research News Club.

Join us for Market Science next Saturday for explorations of soil: soil types, determining soil types, and all of the tiny organisms that live within it.