How do plants have babies?

By Becca Smithers

Plants are incredible. They can be found in dry, rocky places, they can be over 100 metres tall, they can be eaten, and most importantly they provide the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere. Plants mostly stay in one place, so how do plants reproduce and have babies? Across the whole of the plant Kingdom, there are two methods of reproduction that plants can do: sexual and asexual.

Sexual reproduction

Sexual reproduction is when a male gamete (sex cell) and a female gamete join to create a zygote (fertilised cell). The zygote will then develop into a seed which will eventually grow into a new plant. Sexual reproduction mostly occurs in plants that produce pollen. Pollen is the male gamete and it needs to come into contact with stigma, a female part of the plant that collects pollen and transfers it down the style to the ovule (female gamete) which gets fertilised. The fertilised ovule will develop into a seed which can be picked up by the wind (e.g. dandelions, sycamore), carried on the fur of animals that brush past the plant, or the seed can be carried in a fruit (e.g. apples, blackberries). Birds and other animals eat the fruit and can help to spread the seeds of the plant one they pass through their digestive system.

The anatomy of a flower. CC-BY- SA ProFlowers.

In the above picture, you can see the stamen and pistil, both male and female parts in the same flower. The male stamen produce the pollen and the female pistil receives the pollen. Flowers with both male and female anatomy are called “perfect flowers”, but you can have flowers that only have the stamen or pistil, creating male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers. If these male and female flowers appear on the same plant, or if the plant has perfect flowers, then the plant is referred to as monoecious and can self-fertilise. Other plants are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers will appear on different individual plants. This can help prevent self-fertilisation and increase the genetic diversity of the plants. Examples of monoecious plants are hazel and oak, and examples of dioecious plants include willow and holly.

How does the pollen of one plant get to another?

Pollinating plants have two methods of spreading their pollen: by the wind, or by pollinators.

Grasses are examples of plants that use the wind to spread their pollen. The wind carries the pollen and because grasses grow close together it is very likely that the pollen will land on the correct grass, but it is still a large gamble. A lot of pollen in lost by the wind so grasses and other wind pollinating plants have to produce a lot of pollen to make up for this. A lot of people suffer from hay fever when wind pollinating plants are trying to reproduce in spring, the excess pollen in the wind can cause an allergic reaction in humans!

Bee covered in pollen

Using pollinators is a safer bet of transferring pollen to the correct plant. Bees, flies, and other insects are good pollinators. They are attracted to the flowers of plants by their colour, smell, and the promise of sugary nectar. Bees will balance on a flower and use their long tongue called a proboscis to get to the nectar at the base of the flower. The nectar is there to tempt the pollinators to stay on the flower long enough to get coated in some pollen. Bees also use pollen as food in their hives so collect some in small pouches on their legs. The pollinators will fly from flower to flower and transfer the pollen as they go. If the pollen is compatible then it can fertilise the ovule.

Asexual reproduction

This type of reproduction is where a plant makes a clone of itself meaning that the new plant will have exactly the same genes as the parent plant. These clones can grow from long, horizontal stems that can either grow below or above ground. Below ground stems are called rhizomes, above ground horizontal stems are called stolons or runners. The clone plants, called plantlets, grow off these stems.

Here are two examples of plants reproducing asexually, the aloe plant and spider plant that live on my desk! The aloe plant is growing plantlets from the soil which shows there is a rhizome producing the new plants. The spider plant has a runner growing plantlets, trailing away from the parent plant.

Aloe plant (left) and spider plant (right) reproducing asexually.

Bulbs and cacti can reproduce asexually through budding where a new plant can grow off the current plant or bulb. In daffodil bulbs and other plants that come back year after year (referred to as “perennial” in gardening terms), new plantlets grow from a bud that has been asexually produced by the original bulb. This happens underground so is difficult to see. Budding in cacti is much clearer as you can see the new cacti plantlet growing from the original parent plant.

Understanding how to grow plants asexually has led to some interesting gardening techniques such as taking plant cuttings where you grow a clone plant from a cutting of the parent.

The ability to reproduce sexually and asexually gives plants a really good chance of surviving and colonising new areas. Sexual reproduction diversifies the gene pool but asexual reproduction guarantees new plants. This reproductive advantage is one reason why plants can be found in almost all environments on Earth.

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Tips For Growing Beans – Learn How To Plant Beans In The Garden

Bean is the common name for the seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae, which are used for human or animal consumption. People have been planting beans for centuries for use as either snap beans, shelling beans or dry beans. Read on to learn how to plant beans in your garden.

Types of Beans

Warm season bean plants are cultivated for their highly nutritious immature pods (snap beans), immature seeds (shell beans) or mature seeds (dry beans). Beans may fall into two categories: determinant-type growth, those that grow as a low bush, or indeterminant, those with a vining habit requiring support, also known as pole beans.

Green snap beans may be the most familiar to people. These green beans with an edible pod used to be called ‘string’ beans, but today’s varieties have been bred to lack the tough, stringy fiber along the pod’s seam. Now they “snap” in two easily. Some green snap beans are not green at all, but purple and, when cooked, become green. There are also wax beans, which are simply a variant of snap bean with a yellow, waxy pod.

Lima or butter beans are grown for their immature seed which is shelled. These beans are flat and rounded with a very distinct flavor. They are the most sensitive type of bean.

Horticultural beans, commonly referred to as “shelly beans” (among many other various monikers), are large seeded beans with a tough fiber lined pod. The seeds are usually shelled while still relatively soft, harvested when the beans are fully formed but not dried out. They may be either bush or pole types and many of the heirloom varieties are horticultural.

Cowpeas are also referred to as southern peas, crowder peas, and blackeye peas. They are, indeed, really a bean and not a pea and are grown as a dry or green shell bean. Kidney, navy, and pinto are all examples of dry use cowpeas.

How to Plant Beans

All types of beans should be sown after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 50 F. (10 C.). Sow all beans except cowpea, yard-long and lima one inch (2.5 cm.) deep in heavy soil or an inch and half (4 cm.) deep in light soil. The other three types of beans should be planted a half inch (1 cm.) deep in heavy soil and an inch (2.5 cm). deep in light soil. Cover the seeds with sand, peat, vermiculite or aged compost to prevent soil crusting.

Plant bush bean seeds 2-4 inches (5-10 cm.) apart in rows that are 2-3 feet (61-91 cm.) apart and plant pole beans in either rows or hills with seeds 6-10 inches (15-25 cm.) apart in rows that are 3-4 feet (approximately 1 meter or so) apart. Provide support for pole beans as well.

Growing pole beans gives you the advantage of maximizing your space, and the beans grow straighter and are easier to pick. Bush-type bean plants need no support, require little care, and can be picked whenever you are ready to cook or freeze them. They typically produce an earlier crop too, so successive plantings may be necessary for a continual harvest.

Growing beans, regardless of type, do not need supplemental fertilizer but they do need consistent irrigation, especially while budding and on into setting pods. Water bean plants with an inch of water per week depending upon weather conditions. Water in the morning so the plants can dry rapidly and avoid fungal disease.

This investigation is very simple but fascinating. Did you know you can grow a bean in a jar with just a little water?

How to grow a bean in a jar

What you need

  • A broad bean seed
  • Jar
  • Kitchen roll or a napkin
  • Water

Instructions

  • Swirl a small amount of water around the jar.
  • Fold your napkin or kitchen roll and place in the jar. ( we made the kitchen roll very slightly damp also )
  • Place the bean seed in the jar resting on the napkin.
  • Spray some water on the bean every few days.

The bean should start to grow roots after a few days, this is called germination.

We kept one bean in the dark and one in the light, both germinated and grew into small bean plants. This shows that light is not necessary for germination.

You can see here that the plant grown in the dark is a slightly less green than the one grown in the light. We have seen this before with the cress.

What amazes me the most is that all this can grow from one tiny seed with no additional nutrients other than those contained in the bean itself.

After a few days in the light the bean plant kept in the dark was as luscious a green colour as its counterpart.

More plant science

Try dissecting a plant or try one of our other fun plant science activities.

Suitable for:

Key Stage 1 Science

Plants

Identify and describe the basic structure of a variety of common flowering plants, including trees.

Bed bugs are no longer just characters in a rhyme. For the past few years, they have become a real-life nuisance. And there are thousands of reported bed bug infestations all over the country that could prove that true. But over time, methods and techniques were discovered and rediscovered to counter their presence. One potential method gaining attention today is the possible use of kidney leaves to trap the bloodsucking bed bugs.

Based on a study by Micheal Potter, an entomologist from the University of Kentucky, the kidney leaves are capable of capturing the blood-thirsty pests via their little hairs. Those hairs are called trichomes and are about 10 micrometers in diameter and about 50-100 micrometers high.

The hairs, it was said, actually functions as hooks. They puncture bed bugs and stop them from their tracks. And if ever the critters get themselves free on the first trichomes, there are more of it that could snare them ahead their way.

Historically, the bean leaves have been used in Eastern Europe as bed bug traps, it was said. They were just simply spread out on the floor and wandering bed bugs would get snared on the leaves.

But there is a problem. The researchers themselves noted that the use of kidney bean leaves is not ideal to kill bed bugs.

“…bean leaves themselves are not a practical long-term solution because they dry out and don’t last long,” says a passage from webmd.com.

So to solve that problem, the scientists decided to make synthetic kidney bean leaves. They made molds of the surface of the leaf and poured epoxy into them. However, some of the hairs or the hooks of the leaf broke in the molds leading the scientists to make a hybrid kidney leaf.

Testing which one is most effective between the three types – real, synthetic, hybrid – the study found out that real leaves were the only ones that successfully captured bed bugs. Regarding the artificial leaves, dailypilot.com related that:

“They seemed to snag the bugs rather than jab into their bodies, and so the bugs managed to break free and skitter to safety.”

On the other hand, about the hybrid leaves, the same website said that:

“…the plant points weren’t able to puncture the bugs’ shell when attached to a man-made stalk.”

But despite the results showing that natural kidney leaves work, still they don’t make a viable aid to eliminate the pests. For one, it is still under testing. And if the use of them to trap bed bugs was effective when it was used before, then why was it not implemented years ago when the bugs started their big comeback?

Apart from that issue, there is the fact that the leaves dry fast. Even if they truly capture bed bugs, you have to change them every now and then. And that takes a lot of work, not to mention, leaves as well. Though kidney bean is a common plant, unless you grow them, you would have a hard time getting the number of leaves you would need, especially if the area affected is large.

Why Not Use Bed Bug Spray Instead?

With issues regarding its effectiveness and long-term use, you could say that kidney bean leaves are not the most credible solutions to eliminate bed bugs nowadays. And given that the sightings of the pests are ever increasing, you couldn’t be too compromising when getting rid of them. If you do, you could end up with an all-out bed bug infestation.

As you know, bed bugs move fast. They also multiply quickly with their adult females able to lay four to five eggs a day. Because of that, your bed bug method must be really effective. Else, you would just waste money. Besides that, with a higher possibility of a full-blown infestation, it would be harder for you to complete the whole elimination.

So, why not use a bed bug spray instead?

Advantages of a Bed Bug Spray

There are many methods known to effectively kill bed bugs. But what makes the use of a bed bug spray any different? Why must you pick it over kidney bean leaves and all the other bed bug treatments?

Here are its Advantages:

  • It makes bed bug treatment easy. With a bed bug spray, all you have to do is find the exact locations of the pests and spray the product spot on. No big tools and equipments needed to complete the elimination process.
  • It offers prompt elimination process. As mentioned, bed bugs move and populate fast. That means any delay in the bed bug treatment process is an opportunity for them to transfer to transfer to another place or double their number. With a bed bug spray ready though, you could eliminate bed bugs as soon as you noticed them. That prevents all-out infestation which in turn avoids a huge bed bug treatment expense.

Non-Pesticide Bed Bug Spray

You should note though, your bed bug spray must not be a pesticide. Over the years, bed bugs have developed resistance against common insecticides. If you use the conventional bed bug sprays, your elimination process would be ineffective.

And simply said, that would waste your time, money and effort as you would need to repeat the whole process. Because it would delay the elimination, your bed bug problem could also get worse. And surely, you wouldn’t want that to happen especially with more bed bug bites that it could bring.

Moreover, conventional pesticides contain harmful chemical ingredients. So besides wasting your resources, the use of them could also waste your health and of everyone else who could be exposed to it.

Which Bed Bug Spray to Get

Now that you know what type of bed bug spray should you get, which particular brand be it?

Well, considering that it is organic-based and effective, Bed Bug Bully makes the best solution to use against the pests.

It is:

  • Proven Effective. Pest-control companies and even hotel managers have proven that Bed Bug Bully works. Initially available to just a number of them, it was then made available to the public because of the positive responses they gave and affirmation of its effectiveness.
  • Pesticide-Exempt. Bed Bug Bully was classified by EPA under FIFRA 25(b). That means though it is a bed bug spray, it none like the usual insecticides. With its organic ingredients, it is minimum-risk and is much safer than all the other sprays.
  • Non-Invasive. Given that it is pesticide-exempt, you could say that Bed Bug Bully is also gentle, in a way. Whilst it’s tough on bed bugs, it is mild on health and even the environment
  • Hassle-Free. Because the product is safe, it consequently makes the whole bed bug elimination process hassle-free. You don’t have to evacuate after spraying it doesn’t put anyone’s health at risk.

With those advantages, Bed Bug Bully surely makes the best product against bed bugs. And with it around, you could have a reliable help in immediately getting rid of the pests.

Watch the customer’s review below and see how well Bed Bug Bully works.

If you prefer to prove how great it is yourself, grab a Bed Bug Bully sample today.

Get a Bed Bug Bully Complimentary Sample Here!

Know More About Bed Bug Bully!

Bean plants may work as bedbug traps, but they’re obviously an impractical solution for widespread and large infestations.

Bedbug infestations have returned with a vengeance over the past decade or so, including here in Minnesota.

Entomologists cite many possible factors behind the resurgence of these tiny, oval-shaped, blood-sucking insects, including the creatures’ increasing biological resistance to pesticides, the rise in international travel and years of public complacency.

Bedbugs, which like to hang out in beds and other warm, dark places that humans frequent, aren’t a serious health hazard. They don’t cause illness, except in very rare cases when someone is allergic to them. Still, the bites can itch and lead to a mild skin rash.

And then, of course, there’s the eew factor — the knowledge that something is biting and consuming your blood while you sleep (or while you try to sleep).

So a study published earlier this month that details how scientists at the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Kentucky are pursuing a promising bedbug solution based on a simple southeastern European folk remedy caught many people’s attention.

The remedy is the common kidney-bean leaf, which in times past people in some areas of the Balkan Peninsula would apparently scatter on the floor around their beds at night. In the morning, dozens of bedbugs would be trapped on the leaves — their feet caught and pierced by the leaves’ tiny hooked hairs, called trichomes. The leaves would then be removed from the house and burned.

Bean plants may work as bedbug traps, but they’re obviously an impractical solution for widespread and large infestations. For one thing, the leaves only work when freshly picked. The authors of the new study are therefore pursuing synthetic materials that might mimic the leaves’ penetrating hairs — materials that could then be used to create an artificial trap. So far, such a device has eluded the scientists, but they believe they’ll be successful at constructing one soon.

Not the only folk remedy

umn.edu Stephen Kells

“I think it’s a good start and an interesting and novel idea,” said Stephen Kells, a University of Minnesota entomologist and bedbug expert, in a phone interview last week. He’s not sure, however, how practical the device will be.

“To be useful it would have to be able to collect a lot of bedbugs,” he said.

Kells had not heard of the Balkan bean-leaf remedy until he read the new study, but he said people have tried many other non-toxic ways of getting rid of bedbugs down through the centuries. “On ships back in the 1800s, they’d paint over any bugs and encase them in white wash or lime material,” he said.

Another common folk solution was to trap the insects in a moat of hot water formed on the floor around the infested bed.

The modern version of these hot-water traps is, of course, washing all bed linen in hot water and then drying the linen at a high heat. Bed bugs are, however, notoriously difficult to get rid of, so to ensure an infestation is truly gone, the best thing to do is to call a pest-control company, said Kells.

If you don’t want to go the insecticide route, the experts can provide another option: controlled heat. “They’ll heat up the living area to 122 degrees, and that will get rid of the bed bugs,” said Kells.

Don’t try that solution on your own, however. “It requires special equipment,” stressed Kells. “People have started fires trying to do it themselves with inappropriate materials.”

Resurgence hit Minnesota early

Minnesotans should not feel smug about being left off the “top 10” lists of metropolitan areas with the worst bedbug infestations. Minnesota is actually badly infested, said Kells, and was one of the first states to encounter the latest bedbug resurgence.

The reason we don’t make those top 10 lists, he explained, is because the pest-control companies that compile the lists do so for marketing purposes. “Proportionally, they have less of a market share in Minnesota than they do in other places, so they under-represent this area,” he said.

Kells also cleared up another misunderstanding about bedbugs: that only lower-income people who are poor housekeepers need to worry about their homes becoming infested.

“That’s not true,” he said. “Bedbugs like warm bodies. They don’t look for people who are messy or anything like that.”

“Families who are financially strapped may not be able to devote the attention and resources to controlling as people in higher incomes do,” he added. “But people in mid and high incomes get bedbugs, too.”

A great local resource

The University of Minnesota has a terrific website devoted to these ubiquitous insects. It will tell you how to recognize them and what to do — and not to do — to get rid of them.

The site also lists tips for keeping the insects out of your home in the first place. (Here’s one you may not have thought of: When you return home, don’t place your backpack, purse or bag on beds, couches, or other areas where you rest.)

You can also try growing kidney beans this summer.

Why Bean Leaves are Important

Different Kinds of Beans

At least 40,000 different beans have been identified. They include fava beans, which are a cool-season plant. Other types of beans include the tepary bean, which is adapted to desert conditions. Lima beans are another form. Runner beans and hyacinth beans are less common but readily available forms of beans. Often used in ornamental planting, they are edible. Beans come in bush, half runner and pole forms.

Choosing Bean Varieties

You have many options when choosing beans:

  • Romano – flat podded Italian bean.
  • Rattlesnake – very vigorous pole bean, streaked with purple.
  • Kentucky Wonder – classic old-time variety in pole or bush form.
  • Christmas Lima – speckled pole bean grown for shell or dry beans.
  • Mung beans – oriental variety used primarily for bean sprouts.
  • Favas – used in cool season areas and as a cover crop for green manure.
  • Soybeans – classic for Asian recipes, soy sauce and tofu.

How to Grow Bean Leaves

Bean leaves are grown as you would grow beans in general. Beans prefer well-drained fertile soil that is not too high in nitrogen. Plant bean seeds about four inches apart two weeks after the last frost date (favas can be planted at the same time as peas). Provide at least one inch of water per week. Don’t work with plants when they are wet – it may spread disease.

Bean Leaves for Shade

Pole beans are vines that can grow as much as 10 feet in length and must be trellised. Each vine is covered with large, heart-shaped or sword-shaped leaves. In addition to the common garden bean, vine forms include runner beans, hyacinth beans and winged beans. All are edible, so they can provide food as well as shade. Runner beans and hyacinth beans also have very showy flowers.

Eating Bean Leaves

Bean leaves from all types of beans are edible and are used in cooked dishes from many cuisines. The leaves can also be eaten fresh but tend to be overly fibrous for most people. In the Orient leaves from the long bean, Vigna unguiculata, are frequently used in curries, stir fries and soups. The taste is described as similar to arugula with an undertone of citrus. Choose large dark green leaves without spots or holes.

Bean Leaves for Screening

Pole beans and runner beans can provide a quick annual fence. The heavy leaf growth makes a thick screen and can also deaden traffic noise. A temporary fence of chicken wire with posts spaced every five to six feet can provide support. More permanent versions might use chain link. Simply plant the beans along the fence and let them climb it as they grow.

Bean Leaves and Bedbugs

Bedbugs have become an increasing problem in many areas. Difficult to eradicate, they are often resistant to insecticides. Scientists have been examining various folk remedies for solutions. People in the Balkans strewed kidney bean leaves around the bed. In the morning, they removed the leaves as well as the bugs and destroyed both.

How Bean Leaves Work for Bedbugs

The researchers who first studied bean leaves thought that the microscopic hairs on bean leaves trapped the bedbugs by entangling their legs. New research shows that the hairs are actually more like tiny thorns. When the bugs walk on the leaves, they are literally impaled and stick to the leaf surface. The leaves must be fresh to be effective.

The Compost Pile

Bean leaves are very useful in the compost pile. As a legume, the bean produces its own nitrogen, which increases the nutrient composition of your compost. You can strip the leaves from the vines or simply compost the entire vine after the beans are finished bearing. With bush beans, it’s easier to compost the whole plant.

When Bean Leaves Turn Yellow

Yellowed bean leaves can be a sign of soil problems, bacterial or viral infections, or lack of water. Beans grown in alkaline soil are often subject to iron chlorosis, which results in yellowed leaves. Viral and bacterial infections usually show up first as spots on the leaves. The spots spread and the entire leaf becomes brown. Lack of water usually begins with yellowed leaves at the base of the plant.

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