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Flower magic

Meyra decided to make a green flower and Sophie decided on blue. Image by Hakan Oktay
Summer is leaving us, but there are still a lot of plants that flower in autumn, like belladonna and crocuses. So take a look in your garden and see if you can find some white flowers for this amazing experiment that shows you how plants drink! 

Capillary action is the process that allows water to defy gravity and travel up from the plant’s roots to its petals and leaves using cohesion and adhesion. Because water molecules like to stick together (cohesion) and like to stick to the walls of the tubes of cellulose (adhesion), they rise up the tubes all the way from the soil to the tops of plants. Water then evaporates from the leaves, helping to draw up even more water. You can see capillary action in action with this easy and beautiful experiment.

What you need

  • Some white flowers
  • Your choice of food colouring
  • Scissors
  • Small jars or cups to keep your flowers in

What to do

Take your flowers and cut the stems quite short (your children are probably quite good at this sort of cutting already!). You can have longer stems, but the experiment will take a little longer and not look as vibrant.

Take your jars and put enough water in for your flowers. Add around 10-15 drops of food colouring into each jar. You can try this out with just one colour or make your own rainbow bouquet by adding a different colour to each jar. Put a flower into each jar and wait.

In an hour or so, you will notice the flower beginning to change colour to match the food colouring. Then, a few hours later, after your flower has finished drinking the colourful water and it has reached up into the petals, it will be a whole new colour. 

We hope you enjoyed all that beautiful science from the team at Tūhura Otago Museum. Come and visit us in New Zealand’s biggest science centre when you are next in Dunedin, for explosions, chemical reactions, and hundreds of rainforest butterflies in our indoor Tropical Forest, where summer
never leaves!


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