Flower power of weeds

Activity

Learn that weeds are flowering plants and that some weeds can be in flower almost all year round. 

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science

Learning objectives

  • Recognise a flowering weed
  • Understand the life cycle of a flowering weed
  • Explore why gardeners control weeds
  • Learn the importance of weeds for wildlife, as a source of pollen and nectar for insects

Essential background information

Preparation

If it is not possible to access the school garden or an area of disturbed ground, bring in weeds from home or a local allotment.
Ideally walk around the school grounds and garden and discuss with the pupils what is meant by a weed and where they might be found.

Equipment needed

  • Samples of flowering weeds or an area for pupils to explore that has disturbed ground where you are likely to find weeds
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Kneeler mats
  • Flowering Weeds Spotter sheet

Step by step

  1. Show the pupils a good example of a flowering weed that has many flowers and seeds visible, such as groundsel or shepherds purse. Talk about the life cycle of a weed- how it grows quickly from seed, flowers and makes new seeds and then dies. It will then grow again from seed.
  2. Hand out magnifying glasses and kneelers and ask the pupils to go on a search to find other flowering weeds in disturbed ground or cracks in paving. Encourage them to get down to soil level to look at the weed close up.
  3. Some weeds could be dug up or picked and then the pupils can study them at a table.
  4. Use the spotter sheet to identify and label some of the weed specimens.
  5. Bring the group together to share what they have found. Discuss why gardeners may not like weeds. Did they notice any insects visiting the weeds? Explain that many weeds provide much needed pollen and nectar for foraging bumble bees and other pollinating insects early in spring and summer. Seeds from weeds also help feed birds. 
  6. Explain that weeds are wild plants that grow in disturbed ground; that is why they grow in the school garden, where soil is dug amongst the vegetables and flowers.  

Hints & tips

  • Make sure only weeds are dug up, not garden flowers that have been sown or planted.
  • ‘One years seeds are seven years weeds’ is an old gardeners saying explaining that if you let weeds set seed their seeds will stay in the soil for the next seven years!
  • Use this activity as part of Flower Power class growing topic.

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