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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Garden Flowers #6 Observing Pollen

We’re going on a pollen hunt this week!  This Outdoor Hour Challenge you can complete in your own garden or on a hike with wildflowers.

collecting pollen qtip

Remember to take a magnifying lens and some Q-tips with you during your outdoor time.

Link to the Archive Outdoor Hour Challenge –

Focus on Garden Flowers #6 Observing Pollen

Don’t forget to look for any insects on your flowers collecting pollen.

Gardens ebook Outdoor Hour challenge

We’re continuing to work through the Garden Flower and Plants ebook over the next few weeks. If you own this ebook or have access to it in your Ultimate Naturalist Library, you’ll want to get it out and read the first few pages that outline how the ten week series of garden challenges work together and can be done in any order that makes sense to your family. The ebook has planning pages as you choose, observe, and then learn more about each garden flower you study.

If you would like to purchase a membership so you have all of the challenges at your fingertips and the custom notebooking pages too, click over to read all the details and download a sample: Garden Flower and Plant Challenges.

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Summer Cattails – Revisted Using the Handbook of Nature Study

“They usually occur in marshy zones along lakes or streams; and such a zone is always sharply defined by dry land on one side and water on the other.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 502

We did a little research about cattails in California and were interested to find out that it is considered an “invasive weed”. I can see where it might be trouble in irrigation ditches but it is hard for us to put the cattail into the invasive weed category. They are so green and pretty in the summer and they provide such a great habitat for the red-wing blackbirds and other animals as well.

If you remember from the spring we were a little worried that our cattail patch, wondering if it would recover from some pruning that the neighbor did to clear out their ditch. Well, we returned in July to check things out.

6 29 11 Cattail study (2)

Our patch has grown back! The ground was nice and damp which was perfect for getting those cattails going again and the green leaves were sprouting up everywhere. We were so encouraged.

6 29 11 Cattail study (1)

Here is the actual cattail part that is usually brown but it is still green in July. The shape is there but it is not the brown cigar-shaped flower head that we are accustomed to.

As part of the August Newsletter challenge, we returned again to our cattail patch and took a look at what had changed since spring and since last month. We were in for a surprise!

Cattail study  at our creek
The county has dug up the creek just above our patch of cattails and has rerouted the water into a pipe. Now it appears that unless there is a spring for our cattails that they might be doomed without water.

Cattail study - Brown
We walked down the trail to our patch and it was still there but the ground is not as damp as it was last month. The cattails have turned brown and are covered in pollen.

Cattail study - Pollen
I could just brush the flower head and the pollen would puff out like smoke.

“These flowers may be studied in the schoolroom with suggestions for field observations. A lens is almost necessary for the study of most of these flowers.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 503.

Cattail study  - up close
We were able to examine the different parts of the cattail, wishing we had our hand lens. We will try to remember to throw in the hand lens for our next trip to the cattails.

Here are some other interesting things we saw on our walk.

Weed with Wonderful Seeds
I have no idea what this plant is but it was right in among our cattails. The tiny seeds and the way it grows make this an interesting plant to observe.

Queen Anne's Lace
Our Queen Anne’s Lace is so small this year…the plants are small and the flower heads are small. It is amazing to see the difference in how this plant looks from last year’s crop.

Sweet peas
The wild sweet peas are just about finished blooming and all the surrounding areas are brown. The pink really stands out as you walk the trail….the bees love it!

I look forward to seeing some of your pond studies or any other nature studies you have completed this month. Make sure to submit your entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. You can submit your entries by following this LINK.

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Sunflower Garden – July Newsletter Grid Study

Sunflower Garden
Our Sunflower Garden July 17, 2011

Sunflowers are the theme of our garden this year….as anticipated. We planted our seeds on May 10th and they started blooming on July 16th. That is a long time to wait but so worth the time and effort! Now with the July Newsletter focus on sunflowers using the Nature Study Grid and notebooking page, we are slowing down to do some careful observations. This is also made easy by the fact that we are participating in the Great Sunflower Project and counting bees.

Here are the first of our blooms.

Sunflower with Pollen
Sunflower with lots of pollen!

This is actually not one of the seeds that we planted but it popped up under the birdfeeder. They are a perfect complement to our little backyard feeder garden.

Royal Flush Sunflower

From Renee’s Garden Seeds – Royal Flush. I love the watercolor like colors in this bloom.

Chocolate Cherry Sunflower

Here is another one from Renee’s Garden – Chocolate Cherry. Amazing color in the garden!

Sunflower Unfolding

I think this is the third seed from Renee’s Garden – Van Gogh.

Sunflower with Little Spider

We found this spider crawling on a big sunflower last week…..he sure blends in.

Sunflowers Under the Birdfeeder

Here is another image from the volunteer sunflowers around the birdfeeder. If you look carefully, you can see that these are actually two different kinds of sunflowers.

Coneflowers with a Bee
Another bee favorite in our yard is the coneflower. They are rather tall this year and always full of buzzing bees. Coneflowers are on the list of bee attractive plants that you can use as part of the Great Sunflower Project this summer.

Bee Balm with a Bee

How about that bee? He is in our bee balm and loving it. I decided this is a plant that I need to add to more of my flower garden next year.

Sunflower Nature Study Grid

We have been busy learning some new things and making lots of detailed observations using all of our sunflowers. How about your family? Have you done your July Newsletter sunflower study? I look forward to seeing your entries in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Great Sunflower Project

Today we did some observations as part of the Great Sunflower Project. We signed up earlier in the year to participate and they sent us some seeds to plant in our garden. Our job was to observe the sunflowers once they bloom and count how many bees visited our flowers. You are asked to observe until you see five bees or for thirty minutes.

We did not have to wait even a minute before we saw our first bee! We had five bees observed in less than five minutes.
unfolding sunflower
Here is one sunflower that is just unfolding its bloom. I love the way it looks.

lemon sunflower
I love the patterns in this sunflower. You can really see how it is a composite flower with its rays and florets.

bee crawling inside sunflower
This bee couldn’t wait for the sunflower to open…he had to push his way into the inside to reach the pollen.

bee with pollen on sunflower
Have you ever seen so much pollen on a bee before? I couldn’t stop watching this guy and his overloaded pollen sacs. Wow! He is one busy bee.

Mammoth sunflower with blue sky
This is my favorite sunflower in the whole garden. We grew it from a seed saved from last year and it is a Mammoth Sunflower. It is really tall and the bloom is huge.

Mr A with mammoth sunflower
This is my son who is six feet tall….he is dwarfed by this sunflower. Look at how large the leaves are!

finches eat the leaves
This is what the finches are doing to the leaves. They sit and nibble every afternoon. I guess there is enough to share.

This is a really fun and easy project. Check out the Great Sunflower Project for your family next year.

Gardens ebook Outdoor Hour challenge

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Exploring with Pollen: Black-Eyed Susans


Exploring with pollen @handbookofnaturestudy

We were out working in the garden this morning and the topic of pollination came up. We were talking about the different ways that plants pollinate and as if to illustrate one way, this spider obliged us with his example.

We were really examining these black-eyed susans and their pretty pollen spots and we realized that this very yellow spider was sitting right there in front of us. Isn’t he pretty?

I ran inside and gathered a few things to use in exploring the garden and its pollens. I brought out a few Q-tips and a hand lens for gathering some pollen from the flowers and looked at it up close. We also found that many of the flowers and veggies that we observed had ants crawling in around the inside of the flower. Pollination.

Pollen on a day lily

We took a few minutes more to look at various ways that plants hold their pollen and watched a few bees at work and then we came inside.

Pollen on a petunia

It was a short nature study but the best kind……stemming from curiosity about something we had close at hand.

Gardens ebook Outdoor Hour challenge

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Grasshopper on the Daylily (Katydid)

As I was watering the garden this afternoon I noticed this big guy on the daylily. He was rubbing himself in the pollen and thoroughly enjoying himself. He didn’t seem to mind that I was watching him and taking a few photos. Amazing….simply amazing.

Look at those really long antennae.

What a great discovery this hot summer afternoon. The flower is just gorgeous too…..if you didn’t notice. 🙂

“When any creature has unusually strong hind legs, we many be sure it is a jumper, and the grasshopper shows this peculiarity at first glance.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 339

There is a section on grasshoppers starting on page 338 of the Handbook of Nature Study.

Edit to Note: Makita helped me realize that this particular insect is actually a Chaparral katydid. So now here is my question: Is a katydid a kind of grasshopper? In my field guide it says, Chaparral Katydid, Platylyra californica, grasshopper order. Are grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets all related or am I reading my field guide and misunderstanding? Insect identification is my least favorite thing to do in nature study.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #18 Looking for Pollen

“Flowers have neither legs like some animals, nor have they wings like butterflies, therefore they cannot go after pollen; in seeking food and drink from flowers, insects carry pollen from one flower to another.” Handbook of Nature Study page 457

As the weather warms up in most areas of the world, spending time looking at and studying flowers is an enjoyable pass-time. Flowers should be beginning to bloom in a colorful rainbow in your own gardens, your neighborhood, or at a near-by park. Take advantage of the warmer weather and extend your Outdoor Hour time to possibly two 15 minute periods each week. We are spending a little time each day in our garden tending our seedlings and enjoying the sunshine.

Side lesson: If you or your child is allergic to pollen and suffers from seasonal allergies, you might want to take a few minutes to explain how humans are sometimes adversely affected by pollen in the air.
Here is a link that I found interesting that you could share with your children: Allergic Rhinitis

Outdoor Hour Challenge
#18 Looking for Pollen

1. Read pages 457-458 of the Handbook of Nature Study-Flower and Insect Partners. This section gives us two good lessons to be taught to even the youngest nature student. There is also an illustration that can help you explain about pollen and its role in the plant’s life-cycle. Simple and easy. You can easily adapt the illustration to your local area. Review the diagram on page 456 that shows where on the flower you will find the pollen so you can remind your children as they look for insects on the flower.

2. This week during your 10-15 minutes of nature study, take time to see if you can challenge your child to find an insect on a garden flower. This could be a bee, an ant, a butterfly, or a moth in most areas of the world. Share what you learned about pollen and insects in the reading of the Handbook of Nature Study using words and illustrations that your child will understand. If you can capture a bee in a clear jar, this would give you a way to observe the insect and possibly see some pollen on his body and legs. This would be best done with a magnifying glass or you could try to capture the bee with a digital photo and then enlarge it on your computer. I use the “macro” setting on my digital camera and take lots of photos in order to get a good clear one of bees. Continue to use the correct names for flower parts and for leaf parts in your discussions with your children.

3. Add any new garden flowers to your list in your nature journal.

4. This week you can draw an insect on a flower in your nature journal or draw a flower and show where the pollen is found. Record your flower seeds growth and/or record your sunflowers growth for the week.

5. Add leaves or additional flowers to your press. Pressed flowers can be put into your nature journal.

This challenge is part of my Garden Flowers ebook. This ebook has ten garden related challenges that will walk you through a study of garden flowers using the Handbook of Nature Study. In addition to the challenges already written, there will be more photos, nature journal examples, book lists, and totally new notebook pages designed to go with each of the Garden Flower Challenges.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy