A rapidly growing plant is useful for science projects because results can be detected sooner when the plant shows significant growth or completes its life cycle over weeks rather than months or even years. Fast-growing plants have aided scientists in scientific breakthroughs, including the theories of heredity attributed to Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) who studied fast-growing pea plants.
The common sunflower, Helianthus annus, is a herbaceous plant. Herbaceous means that the plant does not develop secondary growth, also known as wood. Your sunflower plant may not flower and reach maturity within the time frame of an experiment, but many science projects can involve the fast-growing foliage of the sunflower. Expect your plant to emerge from its soil in 11 days, then grow rapidly upward and toward its light source. It is beneficial to first germinate the sunflower seeds to determine which seedlings are viable.
The pea plant (Pisum sativum) is useful for science projects not only because it is fast growing but also because of the wealth of information available on it due to its crucial role in the discovery of the theory of heredity. By selectively breeding pea plants, the scientist Gregor Mendel was able to track how traits such as flower colour and seed shape were inherited.
After germinating the seed, plant the seedling in potting soil, and expect the pea plant to emerge within a week. The pea plant has a vinelike growth pattern, so supply material such as netting that the plant can use to grow upwards.
The corn plant (Zea mays) is a fast-growing food crop. Because of its speedy growth, two crops of corn can be planted and harvested in one growing season. Scientists and students alike can take advantage of the corn plant's rapid growth by using it in scientific studies. Although the life cycle of a corn plant takes more than three months to complete, the early stages of rapid growth can be used to complete a variety of science projects. It is recommended to germinate the corn seed prior to planting and then plant the seedling no more than 1.5 inches below the soil surface.
Arabidopsis thaliana is a well-known study plant in the scientific community due to its being one of the first organisms to have its genome completely sequenced. The complete life cycle of the plant, germination to production of a mature seed, occurs in as little as six weeks. Common names for Arabidopsis thaliana include wall cress and mouse-ear cress. As this tiny plant has little agricultural significance, its seeds may be difficult to acquire. To obtain the seeds, contact a scientific supply vendor.
- Access Excellence; Gregor Mendel (1822-1884); Seung Yon Rhee
- USDA Plants Database: Helianthus annus L.--Common Sunflower
- "Alternative Field Crops Manual"; Sunflower; D.H. Putnam, et. al.; 1990
- Access Excellence; Growth Patterns of Pea Plants; Michael Demchik
- North Dakota State University Agriculture and University Extension; Corn Growth and Management Quick Guide; D.A. Williams, et al.; June 1999
- TAIR: About Arabidopsis