The Many Faces of Seeds
- Identify different types of seeds
- Explore the physical characteristics of seeds
The experienced gardener should be able to recognize their favorite plants simply from a few seeds. If not giving clues to the exact variety, the seeds should at least indicate which family of plants it’s from. Seed shape, size, texture, and color can tell us a lot about some of our favorite plants. The seeds of nightshades like peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos all look very similar despite the mature fruit being so different. Similarly, brassicas like kale, broccoli, and cabbage all have very similar looking seeds despite their very different appearance as a mature plant.
Plant scientists identify seeds by their size, shape, texture, and color. A common misconception is that seeds are identified only by their overall size, but each individual part of a seed is examined when identifying a plant seed.
There’s a wide diversity in the size and weight of seeds. Some seeds such as orchid seeds are so tiny they can’t be seen with the naked eye, while seeds from rain forest legumes can weigh almost 2 pounds.
Tools & Materials
- White construction or printer paper
- Clear plastic bags
- A variety of seeds
- Labels with varieties print on them
Introduction (10 minutes)
Begin the lesson by asking Students to name their favorite vegetable. Then ask them to name their least favorite. Show them an assortment of seeds from common vegetables that they would recognize. Don’t be afraid to introduce one or two exotic seeds like Spotted Trout Lettuce or Goat Horn Peppers. Display each bag of seeds so they can recognize it by sight and describe the vegetable and it’s classification as either monocot or dicot.
Activity (15 minutes)
Present each Student with a collection of seeds for 9 different plant varieties in sealed baggies and stapled to a piece of white construction or printer paper. Provide them a label for each seed variety and have them label the bags by identifying each seed. Check their work and have them peel and relabel those that are incorrect until they get all nine seeds identified correctly.
Discussion (10 minutes)
Can you tell what the plant is just by looking at the seed? That works for corn or beans but what about lettuce or broccoli? Do those seeds look like the plant?
Assessment (5 minutes)
Use the following questions to assess the Students before and after the lesson. Tally the responses of the group in the Assessment Tracking Log for comparison:
- By a show of hands, how many of you can identify your favorite vegetable by just looking at the seed?
- Now that you have learned to identify plants by looking at the seeds, how many of you think you could effectively manage the seed library with help?
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