Petals, hairs, and spikes — oh my!

For this assignment, I headed over to my local greenbelt to get a closer look at the plethora of plants there.  I’m really interested in materials science, so I wanted to investigate the microscopic differences of plant textures and forms — essentially, what features contribute to a plant’s structure/appearance?

I tried to pick a variety of different plants, though all were on the edge of a pond.  The first one I chose was the Bushy Bluestem, a fluffy grass species. I chose a similar “fluffy” species (didn’t snap a picture though), but this one had its hairs clumped, compared to the Bushy Bluestem’s long tufts. 


Both species had white, silky, straight hairs, but the Bushy
Bluestem lacked spikes on its hairs.  Perhaps the hairs of the other species are used to cling onto objects for seed dispersal.

I also selected these spiked plants, which are members of the Flatsedges genus. I figured that their structure was a form of plant defense, in contrast to the Bushy Bluestem, whose hairs are better structured for seed dispersal. Besides being pointy, these plants actually had strange strands coming from the ends of their spikes.

I also tried taking a look at these flowers, but there wasn’t anything too remarkable about their petals, especially because they were dying.

I definitely hope to use my Foldscope to look more at the different textures and structures of plants. It’s one thing to say that a plant is adapted to minimize herbivory or maximize fitness, but it’s even better to look closer at how that is possible!

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University.

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