[Plant-education] lycopodium powder in the classroom

Linda Raubeson raubeson at sunrise.cts.cwu.edu
Wed Sep 7 11:15:42 EST 2005

Here's the method I was taught by a senior botanist in my department:

Obtain two student assistants.  One assistant needs a straw and the other
a match or lighter.  Holding a finger/thumb over one end of the straw, dip
the other end into the spores (taking up a half-inch to inch of spores
into the bottom of the straw -- more spores = more effect).  The spores
are then blown from the straw across the flame of the lighter or match.  
When done correctly, this produces a great "flamethrower" effect with a
nice woosh noise. [Lack of effect usually means not enough spores or
blowing too hard from too close directly into the match/lighter and
putting out the flame rather than getting ignition.] WARNING!!: You need
to align your assistants VERY carefully.  The person holding the
match/lighter (and the person conducting the demo = you, and the rest of
the students) should NOT be in line with the blown spores, which will be
the line of the exploding/igniting spores. REPEAT -- Do not allow the
spores to be blown towards anyone.  The ignited spores will travel at
least two feet beyond the match/lighter.  The match/lighter holder should
also hold their flame with the arm outstretched to keep the flame away
from his/her body.  

Students always really like the demo.  I've never had anyone have allergy
issues but then with this method no one touches the spores and the
airborne ones should be ignited.



Linda A. Raubeson			    (509) 963-2734 (phone)
Department of Biological Sciences	    (509) 963-2730 (fax)
Central Washington University               raubeson at cwu.edu
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7537


On Wed, 7 Sep 2005, Perry, Jim wrote:

> I used to do this all the time. I would collect spores (lots) onto a
> piece of paper (probably not such a good idea), light an alcohol lamp,
> turn out the lights, a dump the spores from some height (0.5 M?)  into
> the flames. Whoosh! Big flash!
> Caution: Some people -- my lab professor spouse included -- are allergic
> to the spores. That's why I stopped doing it. Maybe that's why they are
> also no longer used to keep condoms or babies' butts dry.
> It would be nice for a paleophotographer to describe how they were
> ignited in archaeophotography.
> jim
> James W. Perry, Ph.D. 
> Campus Executive Officer and Dean 
> University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley 
> 1478 Midway Road 
> Menasha, WI 54952-1297 
> 920.832-2610 (voice)
> 920.832-2674 (FAX)
> http://www.fox.uwc.edu <http://www.fox.uwc.edu/> 
> ________________________________
> From: plant-ed-bounces at oat.bio.indiana.edu
> [mailto:plant-ed-bounces at oat.bio.indiana.edu] On Behalf Of Porter-Utley,
> Kristen
> Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2005 10:15 AM
> To: plant-ed at magpie.bio.indiana.edu
> Subject: [Plant-education] lycopodium powder in the classroom
> Has anyone attempted to demonstrate the flammable nature of Lycopodium
> spores in the classroom?  If so, I am interested in hearing about your
> experiences/methods.
> Kindest Regards,
> Kristen
> **********************************
> Kristen E. Porter-Utley, Ph.D.
> Keene State College
> 229 Main St.
> MS-2001
> Department of Biology
> Keene, NH 03435
> Office Telephone:  603-358-2576

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