While nearly all plants can reproduce by producing seeds, many can also reproduce themselves in another way, through vegetative propagation (VEG-eh-tay-tive prop-uh-GAY-shun). This is when the plant uses a part of its body, like a stem or a root, to produce a whole new plant! Just think, this would be like a whole new you appearing by growing out of your leg!
Runners and Stolons: Stems that grow along the top of the ground, or just under the soil. As they grow away from the original plant, a new plant will form at the end of this stem, or from nodes which appear in the middle of the stem. Strawberries and spider plants are both plants which use stolons to reproduce.
Cuttings: A part of the plant cut off the parent plant, and placed in fresh soil, sometimes with extra additives that help promote growth. Usually the cutting has leaves attached. New roots and leaves will begin to grow from the cutting, forming a new plant.
Take a close look at a potato. You will see small, bud-like indentations all over the outside. These are called “eyes”, and are the places where new potato plants will sprout. In fact, if you leave a potato in your cupboard long enough, it will start to sprout without any help! At this point the potato is not good to eat, but you could plant it in your garden and get new a potato plant!
NOTE: This experiment will take at least a few days, but it gets better if you allow one month!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. One fresh potato that has not sprouted yet
2. One drinking glass or a glass jar wide enough to fit your potato inside
3. Four toothpicks
4. Enough water to fill your glass about two-thirds full
5. A journal to record your observations
Here’s what to do:
1. Push the four toothpicks into the potato around the middle. About half of each toothpick should still be sticking out of the potato.
4. Watch the potato jar closely; add water if it becomes too low for the potato to reach, and dump the water out if it gets cloudy and add fresh water.
5. After a few days to a week you will see roots forming in the water! In your journal, write down how long the roots took to appear, what they look like, and how much they grow each day . REMEMBER TO CHECK THE WATER EVERY DAY, TOO!
6. After two or three weeks, shoots and leaves will appear at the top of the potato. In your journal, write down how long it took to form shoots and then leaves, as well as how much the shoots grow each day.
7. After one month you can remove your potato from the water and plant it in a pot with soil to let it keep growing!
MAKE UP YOUR OWN EXPERIMENT!
· Try taking cuttings from another plant, like a potted plant in your house (be sure to ask your parents first!). Be sure to cut the stem so there are some leaves on the cutting. Place it in some rich potting soil, and see if it takes root!
· Try the jar and water experiment with a different tuber or rhizome, such as ginger.
References for further research:
1. “Vegetative Propagation Techniques”. Perennial Crop Support Series, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Roots of Peace International Agriculture Programs. (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dailey/VegetativePropagationTechniques.pdf)
2. Vegetative Plant Propagation. Science Learning Hub. 2013, September 24. Retrieved May 13, 2014. (http://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/Innovation/Innovation-Stories/Zealong-Tea/Articles/Vegetative-plant-propagation)
GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License_1.2
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode