[Plant-education] Re: plant biology-plant "feeding" question

tj via plant-ed%40net.bio.net (by t-jacobs At uiuc.edu)
Mon Nov 20 14:11:08 EST 2006

Kirsten et al.

I agree with Doug about black, white and gray w/respect to middle 
schoolers on issues like this.  While (at least some) higher plants can 
and do take up and re-fix previously fixed carbon through their roots 
(see for example Hibberd & Quick (2002)  Nature 415: 451-454), this 
detail will distract middleschoolers from the main lessons they should 
be taking home about plants' lifestyle and even more fundamentally the 
role that lifestyle plays in ecosystems.

More importantly, I really chafe at the use of "food" to describe what 
plants take up.  That word is so loaded with baggage of human 
(heterotrophic) dietary consumption that its use can dangerously mislead 
naive learners who need to appreciate the fundamental differences 
between the heterotrophic and autotrophic lifestyles of animals and 
plants, respectively.    IMHO, lay off "food" in this context if at all 



In article <mailman.67.1163770330.19683.plant-ed At net.bio.net>,
 "Kristen Lennon" <klennon At aaas.org> wrote:

> Hi All,
> We've got two plant biologists on staff, and there is some dissent
> between them regarding a question that has been posed, so I'm looking to
> you for a "vote." Specifically, our work involves expanding upon or
> clarifying the middle school benchmarks from AAAS' Project 2061's
> Benchmarks for Science Literacy for the purposes of instruction and
> assessment. That's the background, so you have an idea of why I'm asking
> this question.
> The point with which we're dealing involves the idea that plants make
> their own food (in contrast to animals) and that in most cases this is
> their only source of food. Food is defined as something that is a source
> of building materials for growth and maintenance and of energy. We have
> one staff member who insists that some plants take in sugars through
> their roots and wants to include it in the work, and one staff member
> who thinks that while this is possible (I think that they're thinking
> mycoheterotrophs), it is not a significant source of food for plants and
> will only serve to reinforce the widely held misconception that plants
> take in food through their roots. I'd love some input from you so that
> we can move forward with this. Any thoughts?
> Thanks for your help.
> Best,
> Kristen Lennon
> Kristen A. Lennon, Ph.D.
> Research Associate
> Project 2061
> American Association for the Advancement of Science
> 1200 New York Ave., NW
> Washington, DC 20005 USA
> Tel:202-326-7032
> E-mail: klennon At aaas.org
> www.project2061.com

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