Dissect a Flower

Learn about the role of different flower parts and how pollinators assist with plant reproduction.

About the Activity

Flowers are beautiful, but plants don’t make flowers for our enjoyment. Plants are living things and their flowers serve an important function in the life cycle of the plant: to reproduce by making fruits and seeds.

In this activity you will explore the parts of a flower by doing a dissection or taking the flower apart. You will figure out how the parts of the flower are involved in plant reproduction and how pollinators help increase pollination.

This activity is part of our 4-H at Home Native Bees Series. See the rest of the activities here.

Grade Level: 2—8
Topic: Environmental Horticulture, Life Science
Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Yellow flowers in a field

Supplies

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Activity Steps

  1. First, go outside and find a flower or buy one from a florist.  The best flowers to use are lilies like the flower in, but if you can’t find a lily, use a large blossom of another similar flower type like the image on the right.
  2. Take a look at the flower diagram below to learn about the different parts of the flower.

    As you begin to dissect your flower during the activity, it’s helpful to know what pieces you are exploring. Looking at the diagram, can you find the stigma and the ovary? The stigma is the part where the pollen needs to land for the flower to be pollinated. What are the different parts of the stamen? The anthers produce the pollen.
One yellow lily
  1. Look closely at your flower. Remove the flower from the stem if it is still attached. Can you identify any parts by just looking at it? Which ones?
     

     
Did you know? Flowers contain the ovary where the fruit and seeds will develop. When pollen lands on the sticky stigma and travels to the ovary,  the flower is pollinated and develops into fruits and seeds.
  2. Use scissors to cut the flower in half lengthwise from the stem. Use your fingers or tweezers to separate the flower into its different parts. If you have  a magnifying glass, this is a great time to look closely at all the different flower parts.
     

     
Did you know? Some flower petals have signals for pollinators to show that they have nectar and where the nectar is located. The petals look like a landing strip to many  pollinators. Nectar is often located in the center of the flower, making it necessary for pollinators to touch the other parts of the flower to get to the nectar. When pollinators visit flowers to get nectar, they pick up pollen (mostly by accident) from the anthers and leave it on the stigma.
     
    When you have identified a part, tape it to the correct square on the flower parts sheet. Did your flower have all of the parts? Keep in mind, not all flowers contain the same parts and flowers can differ in the number of each part.
     

     
    Did you know? A flower can have many ovaries and many styles with stigma. For the fruit to develop properly, all the stigmas must be pollinated. Pollinators help not only with moving pollen from one flower to another but also with getting all the stigmas pollinated. If the flower is only partially pollinated the fruit will become misshapen as it grows.

Reflection Questions
Bonus questions to inspire wonder:

  1. In many flowers, the anthers are located close to the stigma. What is the advantage for the flower to have these structures close together?
  2. Flowers and pollinators have coevolved (developed a relationship over time) into a mutually beneficial relationship. How does the plant benefit from the relationship? How do the pollinators benefit from the relationship?
  3. Why are pollinators important for our food supply?
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Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

Some plants need pollen from a different plant (cross-pollination) like the apple tree, while others can self-pollinate. Some plants also have male and female flowers. Explore the flowers in your community with a magnifying glass to learn more about the plants around you.

A person cutting a flower plant

Career Connections

Young girl studying
Rural STEM Careers

If you liked learning about the anatomy of flowers, you might enjoy a career in STEM. STEM careers are exciting and rewarding, and you can pursue a STEM-related career wherever you live, whether you’re in a city, a rural community, or anywhere in between.

Watch this video and learn what it takes to be a field sales representative from Wyatt Jones of Bayer Crop Science.

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No endorsement of these supporters' products or services is granted or implied by 4‑H. This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, AFRI - Education and Workforce Development project 2021-67037-33376.9

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