Using white carnations and coloured water, children can see first-hand the role stems play in supplying water to a plant. A hands-on experiment, children can watch the coloured water as it travels up the stem and reaches the flowers, changing their colours.
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Begin the experiment by first filling six plastic cups approximately half-full with water. Use plenty of food colouring in each cup (minimum 30 drops) to ensure the experiment is successful. Using scissors, cut each stem at an angle to allow the water to flow freely up the stem.
Begin the experiment
Place one carnation in each cup of water (four total). Next, take the remaining two carnations and split the stem from the base of the flower to the bottom. Now set two cups next to one another and put the stems into two different cups of coloured water.
While the carnations are soaking, create a list of predictions. How long will it take for the colour to change? Which of the four colours will show fastest? What will happen with the split stem flowers -- which colour will be absorbed or will they mix? Check on the flowers every few hours, but be prepared for the entire process to take as long as 24 hours.
Keep a log of results by writing down what is observed in each cup, for example: cup A - blue water (2 hours -- colour showing in buds, 4 hours moving to leaves, 6 hours flower beginning to change colour, 12 hours flower completely absorbed colour). Make notes on which colours travelled fastest the with the split stem flowers.
Plants have tiny holes in them called stomates that allow water to evaporate in a process called transpiration. When plants are growing in soil the roots normally supply moisture to the flowers. However, when the roots are cut, the stems must supply the water. This can be observed using this simple colour changing carnation experiment.
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