Pinpointing Plant Parts
Learn how to identify and classify each part of a plant, and take a closer look at the types of plants that you regularly eat.
About the Activity
Have you ever looked closely at a salad? There might be crisp green lettuce leaves, bright orange carrots, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, or maybe even some sunflower seeds as a topping! You might not realize it as you’re eating lunch, but all these plant foods come from different parts of the plant.
In this activity, kids will observe plants in their neighborhood, determine their various parts, then sketch out their favorite meal and explore the plants that are a part of it.
This activity is part of our 4-H at Home Plant Science Series. See the rest of the activities here.
Topic: Agriculture, Plant Science, STEM
Estimated Time: 30-45 minutes
Brought to you by University of Georgia Extension/4-H and USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Special thanks to Kasey Bozeman, Extension 4-H Specialist
- Colored pencils
- Piece of paper
- Magnifying glass (optional)
- With adult supervision, go outside and find some plants. As you look around, you’ll see that there are six major parts of a plant:
- Identify the different parts of each plant. You won’t likely be able to see the roots, but there are plenty of features aboveground to see. Explore to see if you can find any seeds, flowers, or fruits.Did you know? Stems of some plants can also be located underground, too. Tubers are modified underground stems used for storage of important nutrients. Examples of tubers are white potatoes, ginger, and cassava.
- Record your observations on your paper. Just like the scientists that study plants, draw sketches and make note of any important details. Use your ruler to measure the plant's height, and if you have a magnifying glass, look closely at different features.Did you know? Sometimes, the leaves of a plant are actually underground! Bulbs are modified, fleshy leaves used for food storage, and they’re located underground in some monocot plants. Examples of underground leaves include onions, garlic, and shallots.
- Now, return indoors and think about foods you enjoy. Using the colored pencils, draw your favorite meal on the paper plate. On the back of your plate, list the different ingredients in the meal you sketched, and think about any plants that made that meal possible. For example, if you sketched tacos, be sure to include corn (for the tortillas), beans, lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, onions, and peppers.Did you know? What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? It can be confusing, but it all comes down to what part of the plant is being eaten. A fruit is the mature ovary of a plant, which is a part of the flower. Fruits come from flowers that have been fertilized and ripen into a fruit. Examples include tomatoes, peaches, or cucumbers. A vegetable is the edible portion of a plant, usually grouped according to the portion of the plant that is eaten such as leaves (lettuce), stem (celery), roots (carrot), tubers (potato), bulbs (onion) and flowers (broccoli).
- Print out the Edible Plants Answer Guide chart and see if you can classify the fruits and vegetables from your favorite meal, based on the part of the plant that we eat.Did you know? Plant parts, like nuts and seeds, can be confusing. A true nut is a hard-shelled pod that contains both the fruit and seed of the plant, where the fruit does not open to release the seed to the world. Seeds are embryonic plants usually enclosed in a protective covering. Grains are small, hard, dry seeds with or without attached hulls or layers. All this to say: Peanuts aren’t nuts! They’re legumes, which are edible seeds enclosed in pods.
Bonus questions to inspire wonder:
- How did the ruler and magnifying glass make it easier to observe plants?
- Which observations made it easiest to identify a plant?
- Why is it important for scientists to be able to correctly identify the parts of a plant?
- Were you surprised when you learned about the different parts of the plant that you eat during your favorite meal?
Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.
Flower scents and colors attract the insects and animals to carry their pollen. Most fruits, nuts, and some vegetables require insects and animals to enable pollination, but others can rely simply on the wind.
Insects are the most common pollinators and include organisms such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, flies, and beetles. Other organisms such as birds and bats can also serve as pollinators, too. All pollinators serve a very important role. The U.S. Forest Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) claims about 90% of all flowering plants need the help of animals to move pollen from flower-to-flower for the production of fruits and seeds. Of the estimated 1,330 crop plants grown worldwide for food, beverages, fibers, condiments, spices, and medicines, approximately 75% are pollinated by animals.
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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