Raha Beens illustrating a botany experiment using commonly found flowers in a simple science experiment for kids

Dissect a Flower

Do flowers only exist to make plants look pretty?

Key Concepts

  • Biology icon
    Biology
  • Botany icon
    Botany
  • Dissection icon
    Dissection
  • Plants icon
    Plants
  • Reproduction icon
    Reproduction

  • Introduction

    Springtime is when nature appears to come back to life after winter. Trees grow leaves, grass gets green, and flowers sprout, displaying beautiful colors and sometimes spreading a delightful scent. But have you ever looked at a flower in more detail? What parts do flowers consist of? Are all flowers alike? In this activity you will find out by dissecting, or taking apart, a flower piece by piece. How many plant parts do you think you can identify?

  • Background

    Plants that make flowers are known as flowering plants. But do flowers only exist to make plants look pretty? Not quite! Although they can be beautiful to us, flowers are made to attract pollinators for reproduction. This means the flowers are a crucial part of the process in growing seeds to make more plants. If you look closely at a flower, you might see that it is made of many different parts, each of which has a specific purpose.

    Some flowering plants have a stem, which is a long stalk that carries water and nutrients and supports the flower. Leaves produce the food for the plant by photosynthesis, a process that helps makes plant food from light, carbon dioxide and water.

    When you look at the flower of a flowering plant, the most obvious parts are probably the petals. They can vary in size and shape but are usually brightly colored. Their purpose is to attract the bees and other insects that help to pollinate the plants. You might be surprised to learn that some flowers—in the botanical world they are called "perfect flowers"—have male parts and female parts, and each plays an important role during pollination.

    The male parts, called stamens, look like long stalks (known as filaments) with a little round shape at their end (called the anther), which contains the plant pollen. This bright yellow or orange dust is what insects carry from one plant to another. Pollination occurs if the pollen gets carried to the female parts of a new flower, called the pistil. The pistil is usually a long stalk located in the center of the flower and is also made up of several parts. Most importantly it contains the ovary at its bottom, which houses the female plant eggs called ovules. When pollen is dropped into the pistil of a flower, the eggs, or ovules, inside the plant ovaries are fertilized. The fertilized ovules then grow into plant seeds, and the ovary becomes the fruit.

    As you can see, a flower is much more than just beautiful to look at: it is essential for a plant to create more plants. Take a closer look at the many different plant parts in this activity, and see how they differ from one flower to another!

  • Preparation

    1. Label each of the paper plates with one plant part ("Stem," "Petal," "Leaf," "Pistil" and "Stamen").
    2. Label one extra paper plate "Other."
    3. Draw lines onto each paper plate to divide it into three sections.
    4. Label each section on each plate with a name of one of the three flowering plants.
  • Procedure

    1. Carefully look at each of the flowering plants. If you have a magnifying glass, you can use it to examine your plants and their flowers. What does each plant and flower look like?
    2. Choose one of your flowering plants, and start your plant dissection. Use your hands, scissors or tweezers and carefully take apart your plant. Which plant parts can you identify?
    3. Once you have removed one part of the plant, try to identify it, and place it on the corresponding plate. Put it in the section that is labeled with the right plant name. Can you find a plant part for each plate?
    4. If you cannot identify a specific plant part, place it on the "Other" plate.
    5. When you have finished taking the first plant apart look at all its different parts. How do different parts within one plant compare?
    6. Next repeat the dissection with the remaining two flowering plants. Then compare the plant parts on each paper plate. What do you notice about the same plant part from different flowering plants?
    7. Look at all the plant parts that you placed on the "Other" plate. What do you think these plant parts are? How can you find out?
    8. Extra: If you have intact specimens of the types of flowers you dissected, examine these to see how all of the plant parts you identified fit together in the whole flower. How do these vary across different types of flowers?
    9. Extra: Draw each of your flowering plants on a piece of paper. Color your plant and label each part that you identified.
    10. Extra: Make a "plant parts" poster for each plant: Label a piece of paper with the name of one of your plants. Then tape the full flowering plant on one side of the paper. On the other side, tape each plant part into a different section of the paper. Label each plant part, and decorate your poster.
    11. Extra: Did you know that some parts of flowering plants are edible? Look at carrots, beets, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, apples, peppers, lettuce, peas, corn or cabbage. Can you find out which parts of each plant we usually eat?
  • Observations and Results

    Just from looking at your flowering plants you might have noticed that each plant looks quite different. Obvious differences, for example, are the size or color of a flower. When you dissected the plants, however, you should have been able to identify the same plant parts for each of your plants. Each of them should have had a stem, which might have had some green leaves on it; colorful flower petals; the female flower part (pistil) at the center of the flower; and the male plant parts (stamen) that produce the pollen. When you compare each plant part you might have noticed that they each look very different. A petal, for example, probably looked very different from the stem. This is because each plant part has a specific function, and its appearance is optimized to fulfill that function.

    If you compare the same plant parts between different flowers, you might have observed that they looked somewhat similar. They might not have looked exactly the same, but you should have seen that they have the same functional features. Although flower petals can differ in size and color, they are usually brightly colored or shaped in a way to attract pollinators, such as bees. The differences between different flowering plants allow us to identify different plant species.

  • Clean Up

    You can put any remaining intact flowering plants into a jar or vase with water. Discard all the dissected flower parts in your compost or trash. Clean your work area, and wash your hands with water and soap.
  • Safety First & Adult Supervision

    • Follow the experiment’s instructions carefully.
    • A responsible adult should assist with each experiment.
    • While science experiments at home are exciting ways to learn about science hands-on, please note that some may require participants to take extra safety precautions and/or make a mess.
    • Adults should handle or assist with potentially harmful materials or sharp objects.
    • Adult should review each experiment and determine what the appropriate age is for the student’s participation in each activity before conducting any experiment.

Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) Supported - Disciplinary Core Ideas

This experiment was selected for Science at Home because it teaches NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, which have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines.

Learn more about how this experiment is based in NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas.

Life Science (LS)1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structure and Processes

Grades K-2

  • 1-LS1-1. All organisms have external parts. Plants have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit) that help them grow and survive.

Grades 3-5

  • 4-LS1-1. Plants have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.

Grades 6-8

  • MS-LS1-1. All living things are made up of cells, the smallest unit that can be said to be alive. An organism may consist of one single cell (unicellular) or many different numbers and types of cells (multicellular).
  • MS-LS1-3. In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems – groups of cells that work together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions.
  • Grades 9-12

    • HS-LS1-1. Systems of specialized cells within organisms help them perform the essential functions of life.
    • HS-LS1-2. Multicellular organisms have a hierarchical structural organization, in which any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level.
    • HS-LS1-3. Feedback mechanisms maintain a living system’s internal conditions within certain limits and mediate behaviors, allowing it to remain alive and functional even as external conditions change within some range.

Grades K-2

  • 1-LS1-2. Adult plants and animals can have young.

Grades 3-5

  • 3-LS1-1. Reproduction is essential to the continued existence of every type of organism. Plants have unique and diverse life cycles.

Grades 6-8

  • MS-LS1-4. Plants reproduce in a variety of ways, sometimes depending on animal behavior and specialized features for reproduction.

Grades K-2

  • K-LS1-1. Plants need water and light to live and grow.

Grades 3-5

  • 5-LS1-1. Plants acquire their material for growth chiefly from air and water.

Grades 6-8

  • MS-LS1-6. Plants use the energy from light to make sugars from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water though the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen.

Grades K-2

  • 1-LS1-1. Plants have parts that capture and convey different kinds of information needed for growth and survival.