Request for lab ideas

gross at georgian.edu gross at georgian.edu
Mon Dec 11 13:06:32 EST 1995


          Mike Weber asks for ideas for a plant lab.

          My experience has been that students find plants that act
          like people interesting.  They like plants that move, so I
          have found using the sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica), Venus
          fly trap (Dionaea muscipula), and sundew plants (Drosera)
          stimulates interest.  Plants with diurnal leaf movements,
          such as the prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura), or bean
          plants, are also useful.  While these phenomena are not
          easily investigated in a traditional classroom laboratory
          setting, students with medical interests may relate well to
          a discussion of the various mechanisms responsible for
          movement (including action potentials shown by some
          species), and the concept of circadian rhythms.  It is easy
          to make comparisons between these characteristics in plants,
          vs. those in humans.  I grow all of these plants in our
          college greenhouse.  Many students have never actually seen
          these plants move, or looked up close at the pulvini,
          trigger hairs, etc.

          I have found that my students enjoy laboratory work using
          hormones or other growth regulators, because they can see
          dramatic changes in the plants over a few days or weeks, and
          can relate to hormones because animals have them.  Examples
          of hormone laboratory exercises are easily found in most lab
          manuals.  I have found that the following usually always
          work, and can be related to practical uses (crop yields,
          Christmas tree shape):
          1. addition of various concentrations of gibberellic acid to
          genetically dwarf pea plants.
          2. Coleus plants kept intact or with the apex removed, to
          demonstrate lateral growth inhibition.
          3. Coleus plants with various proportions of the leaf blades
          removed (0 to 100%), to determine how much of the leaf blade
          must remain intact to avoid abscission of the petiole.
          4. application of differing amounts of red and far-red light
          to study phytochrome and seed germination (this topic has
          been discussed previously in plant-ed).

          Because the movements and hormones are physiological topics,
          they could be combined into one physiology lab session.

          Mike Gross
          Dept of Biology
          Georgian Court College
          Lakewood, NJ  08701
          gross at georgian.edu



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