The Secrets in Flowers: A Free Botany Lesson for Kids

Based on an out of print book, “Grocery Store Botany” by Joan Elma Rahn

Turks Cap flower image for Flowers Lesson

Eat Flowers!

As a child growing up in central Florida, my brother and I used to pluck Turkish Caps off bushes and suck the sweet nectar out of them. They are a bush that was often used as a hedge and has very pretty red flower that droop downward from the stems.

With some research, you can find other edible flowers. To name a few, here are some that can be found in Florida: nasturtiums, calendula, violets, dill, marigold, hibiscus, basil flowers, garlic and onion flowers, jasmine (for tea), and squash flowers.

Trivia: Did you know that dogs LOVE hibiscus flowers? Many pet owners in my area tell of their dogs eating the flowers from their bushes! Oh, fido.

Edible Flowers in the Grocery Store

But, edible flowers can’t be found in a grocery store! 

Wait. That’s not true. 

One of America’s most popular vegetable is actually the plant’s stems with flowers that haven’t had time to open yet: broccoli and broccolini. 


The Philosophy at Seasons of Devotion for Childhood Learning

We were made to wonder and to be curious. Creativity will be a natural result when we are given the chance to discover things for ourselves. For more details on why this is true, read my post, “The best way to homeschool so that your children will thrive.”

The Secret Inside Flowers

Supplies You Will Need

For this botany lesson about flowers, you will need the following items. 

  • Stalks of broccolini
  • Or, stalks of broccoli can be used as a second-best choice in place of broccolini
  • Dried whole cloves-try to get a name brand for better experience in dissection
  • Several different kinds of flowers that are not edible to last 3 days
  • Glass with water
  • Small bowl or cup with water
  • Page saver sleeve

Plan ahead for your botany lesson about flowers

NOTE: This chapter is divided into several days to make the instructions easier to follow. I strongly suggest spreading this activity over several days, taking it slow to allow lots of time for your child to explore and process what they learned. If you want to shorten the time frame and get a head start, cut a slice off the bottom of a stalk of broccolini and place it in a glass of water two or three days in advance, place it in a natural lighted place, and save the rest in the refrigerator for the day you begin. Also, the day before you begin, soak a few whole cloves in a small cup of water so it can soak overnight. 


Grocery Store Botany: Broccolini has edible flowers

It’s hard to find flowers to eat in a grocery store, but we will encourage a broccolini stem with flower heads to open so we can see the little flowers it is hiding. Your stalk of broccolini may already have a few flowers that have started to open, so we will take a close look at broccolini stalks first. 

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Day One: Explore inside a flower or two….or three!

Dissect a Broccolini flower

Broccolini is a broccoli stem with flowers at the end that haven’t opened up yet, but you will be able to gently peel the outer parts of the tiny flower buds open to find some inner parts. The buds are tiny, so be patient. You may need to try again. 

First, peel back the tiny green leaf looking part. Then, open the flower bud and discover little parts on the inside. Next, look at the diagram of a flower in your workbook and see if your tiny flowers have any of the same parts. Can you find the four sepals, four petals, six stamens, and one pistil in your tiny broccolini flower? 

Your second exploration: dissect another flower

Find another flower. It can be any flower, just don’t eat it! See if you can find ways it is the same as your tiny broccolini flower. How is it the same?


Let the broccolini bloom

Let’s see if you can help the flowers to open up some more. Cut a slice off the bottom of the stalk. Place the stalk in a glass of water and put in a well-lit place inside. Some of the flowers should bloom or open up. This may take a few days. Change the water every day and gently wash the outside of the stalk. Broccoli has an odor that’s pretty strong so this step is important if you don’t want a smelly room! 

While you are waiting for your brocollini flowers to bloom, there’s some activities you can do for the next two classes. 

Day Two: Learn Flower Parts

Your third exploration: dissect a third flower

Find a large flower that is ornamental. If you have a garden, squash flowers are easy to work with because they are big flowers. Note: Squash flowers do not have all the parts in one flower. Some parts are on the female flower and other parts are on the male flower. There is a bonus flower id page for flowers that have two different flowers on them. 

Make a copy of your flower ID page from your workbook chapter for flowers and cover it with a clear page saver. Find the parts of the flower and take the parts off. We call that dissecting it. Carefully lay the parts in the correct squares of your workbook page. Try to learn the names of the parts by heart. Cover the names with a paper cutout and see if you can remember. If you forget a name, move the paper to remind yourself.


The Clove Spice is a Flower Bud

If you have soaked the clove buds, you may continue with this next section now. If you haven’t soaked the buds, soak them overnight and do this section on day two. 

Cloves are dried flower buds. They remind us of Thanksgiving and Christmas because they add a spicy flavor to cookies, pies, cakes, and drinks that we eat and drink during those holidays.

The parts of a clove bud

Your cloves have four short sepals pointing upward and outward. The petals cover the secrets inside the flower buds. Be a detective and see how your tiny clove flower bud is the same as the diagram. How is it the same as the broccolini flower? A clove bud has many stamens and a single pistil.  Don’t be discouraged if you little clove bud looks smushed when you take it apart. That’s actually all the stamens inside! Since it has been dried, you won’t be able to separate them. Do you like the smell that the clove has? 

Day Three: Review botany vocabulary with art

  1. Study the flower diagram again and copy the picture into your workbook chapter. 
  2. Label your diagram with the new vocabulary words
  3. Review the vocabulary words and write the definitions in your vocabulary workbook page. 

Learn more about flower parts while you are waiting

Flowers are the most common way that plants start the “seed making” process. It can be a little complicated and it takes the several parts of the flower to actually work together to make the seeds. The plant must make seeds because the plant needs to reproduce itself. And we need them to reproduce because we need to eat more plants! 

The stamens have pollen on them. When the pollen touches the top of the pistil, the immature seeds get fertilized and begin to grow. The result is ultimately, more seeds so more plants will grow. That whole sequence is called, reproducing. Reproducing means making the same plant again. 


The plant’s helpers

Most plants need help in order to get the pollen onto the top of the pistil. That’s where bees and other insects do their work. They fly to a flower to get nourishment (or food) from the flower so they walk all around the flower. The pollen sticks to their legs when they walk on the stamen and then the pollen sticks to the pistil when it walks on the pistil. They may  not know they are doing such an important job! Maybe all they know is that they are gathering food for themselves and the bees back at the beehive. As you dissect your flower, try rubbing your finger across a stamen. Did pollen come off onto your finger? 

Day Four: The broccolini has bloomed!

A broccoli bloom partially dissected up close for flowers lesson
Careful Dissection

Your flowers will be easier to dissect, now that they have bloomed. Find the flower parts diagram again. You may use the one you created yesterday if you like. 

Your flowers will be easier to dissect, now that they have bloomed. Find the flower parts diagram again. You may use the one you created yesterday if you like. 

Now that your brocollini has bloomed, you can make a new illustration on the broccolini id page to match the colors of the brocollini flowers.   

You can see the pistil and anthers in this closeup of a broccoli bloom that has a few petals removed. The pistil will grow a two-inch seed pod that contains several broccoli seeds that are just a little larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Can you believe a large broccoli plant can grow from such a tiny seed? God is amazing!


a broccoli plant in full bloom showing yellow flowers

The Incredible Broccoli Plant

Broccoli is a large garden plant. Once the plant makes the first head of broccoli-the broccoli you have seen already, the plant will grow more branches with smaller heads. You know them as “broccolini”. Now you know where broccolini comes from! If the gardener allows the broccoli to continue to grow, instead of cutting them to eat, the ends will bloom into a zillion little yellow flowers! The flowers eventually drop and seed pods hang from the plant where the flowers were. Once the seed pods dry out, the gardener can pick the dry pods and harvest teeny-tiny seeds from the inside of the little pods. Then, more broccoli can be grown from the seeds.


You learned so much about flowers! Not only are they pretty, but they are really important for the plant to reproduce itself. Next time you see flowers, you can tell them that you know their secrets!

May all your weeds be wildflowers!

Debbie

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