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SELF-POLLINATING/CROSS-POLLINATING

Let's be hummingbirds. Haven't you always wanted to be a bird? Just for a few minutes? Since we can't really be any kind of animal except what we already are, we can pretend.

We have a plant that is just about ready to blossom, but has no open blossoms yet. By bringing it into the classroom, in a pot, we have isolated it from all other plants. We will make a hummingbird beak out of this piece of thin wire, which is 6 inches long, and after putting a bit of glue onto the last 1/2 inch of the wire, we'll wait until the glue is tacky, then wrap some absorbent cotton around it where it's glued. We don't want to use much cotton. If it is as fat as a cotton swab, it's too fat.

There is one blossom that has opened. We'll push some petals aside, and with our beak, we'll touch the stamens, and then the tip of the pistil. If you look carefully, you can see that there is now some pollen on the stigma. This flower is self-pollinated, because we put its own pollen onto its own stigma. We will make more beaks, and self-pollinate most of the flowers on this plant. Some of them won't be pollinated at all (we'll put tags on them). We have to use a different beak for each flower. It's as though a large group of hummingbirds swooped down onto this plant, and each of them took nectar from a separate flower (thereby pollinating the flower).

Now, on the other plant we isolated, we can be butterflies. With a single cotton-wrapped wire (butterfly legs), we will touch almost all the flowers on this plant (again, putting tags on the un-pollinated flowers). This plant, then, has been cross-pollinated.

In a week, let's compare the pollinated flowers to the unpollinated flowers and see if they are different from one another.

 
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