Six on Saturday: 5.9.20 Monocots & Dicots

For this weeks six I thought I would do a blog to aid with revision for my first RHS exam in a few weeks. Having had a look through past exam papers the differences between monocts and dicots is a regular exam question. Flowering plants (Angiosperms) are divided into two key groups moncots and discots. The course never really explains why this is important to know but it does give you a good idea of how a plant will grow, what leaves it will have. Some diseases may affect dicots but not monocots so it can be useful to be able to categorise the two.

1. Leaves

The leaves of monocotyledonous plants have parallel veins. They are usually strap-like in shape and have the stomata (where oxygen exits and carbon dioxide enters) are spread evenly between the top and bottom of the leaves. Grasses would be a good example of this. Here we have a hosta showing the parallel veins.

Whereas, dicotyledonous plants have spreading, reticulate (net-like) and branching veins. Here on the heuchera you can see the veins spreading out like a web. The stomata are located on the underside of the leaves.

2. Stems

Monocot stems have vascular bundles scattered around the stem with an epidermis one layer thick. They cannot undergo secondary thickening so they do not form woody stems. There are some exceptions such as palm trees and bananas that can form larger stems but these are exceptions that have developed different strategies than dicot stems for growing larger. So while something like a hosta may grow large leaves it does not develop a large stem. Here the agapanthus has the strap like leaves with a long stem but it cannot undergo secondary thickening to make it more stable.

Dicot stems have vascular bundles arranged in circles around the pith acting as a starch store. They can undergo secondary thickening. So, in general, most trees will be dicots.

3. Flowers

Monocot flower parts are arranged in multiples of 3. Irises and lilies are good examples of this.

Whereas, dicot flowers have parts arranged in multiples of 4 or 5.

4. Seeds

Monocot seeds have one cotyledon, thus the name monocot. The cotyledon is the embryonic leaf that the plant initially grows when first germinated. As it grows larger it forms the true leaves. In the case of monocots, as already said, strap-like.

In dicot seeds, they have two cotyledons. Here we have the two seed leaves of the dicot coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea.

5. Roots

In monocot roots are usually fibrous. They sometimes have an initial taproot that dies off quickly to be replaced by the adventitious fibrous roots. Whereas dicots can form a tap root system with a central thicker root growing down with roots branching off this. Then from the secondary roots smaller taproots may form. Here we have the fibrous roots coming off an onion.

6. Pollen grains

Monocot pollen is monosulcate. This means it has a single pore through the outer layer.

Whereas dicot pollen is tricolpate meaning it has 3 ridges through the outer layer.

I hope you have enjoyed me sharing some of my course knowledge. Hopefully, some of it may be accurate. One more weekend to go before the test so I have a bit more time to cram. Sorry if I don’t get around to reading everyone else’s sixes this week. Between starting my new job on Monday and preparing for my exam I am a bit busy. But it should settle into a nice routine after the exam. Enjoy your weekends.

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30 Days Wild: Day 30-We’re going on a bear hunt

Alice has been asking about going on a bear hunt for a few days. We started our preparations with bear biscuits and carried them on today. It seems appropriate that we started this years 30 Days Wild with a Teddy Bear’s picnic and we are finishing with bears again.

Alice was concerned we might get lost so she wanted to make maps in case anyone got lost.

Her map shows her route through swishy grass, splashing through rivers, squelching through mud, stumbling through the forest, through the snowstorm, and tiptoeing to the cave.

We had a read of the wonderful Jackie Morris something about a bear book.

The book shows different bears but finishes with the best bear of all. Your teddy bear. It’s beautifully illustrated and Alice talked through what she liked about each.

At the end, it has a little bit of information about the different bears around the world.

Alice’s cousins came round and helped her bear hunt in the garden. They swished through the grass and splashed through rivers and squelched through mud.

They stumbled through forests and whirled through snowstorms and finally tiptoed through the cave where they found the bear!

And they locked the bear out. Poor bear!

Then they took turns at being a bear.

Before settling in for a snack of bear biscuits.

And so we are on the last day of 30 Days Wild. It’s always a pleasure to take part. We live our life with high engagement in nature but it’s nice to make the record of what we’ve got up to. But it is a lot of work recording it every day and blogging each day so it’s nice to ease off. Alice is at a lovely age where she is taking so much in and keen to learn about everything. I’ve had some lovely comments over the month from readers of the blog. I mainly write it as a diary to look back on but it is nice to hear other people have enjoyed our adventures in nature. High points include being a guest author for the Wildlife Trust, having schools feature the blog for their home learning, and being asked onto a podcast. If you want to read back on what we’ve been up to over the month you can check the contents page. 30 Days wild is organized by the Wildlife Trusts. One of the best ways you can carry on 30 Days wild is by supporting them by becoming a member, visiting reserves as they reopen or volunteering. And from there you can make your 30 days 365 days wild. I hope you’ve enjoyed our 30 days adventures. We will be continuing as ever but the daily blogs will be stopping for a while.

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30 Days Wild: Day 27-Butterflies and wild art

Yesterday was an exciting day for deliveries. First, we had the delivery of a new sunhat from my aunty for Alice. A reversible hat with bees on one side and ladybirds on the other.

The second delivery was from insect lore. I’d ordered in one of the butterfly kits. However, due to Corona, they didn’t have the one we ordered so we got an upgrade and got a few extras in our set.

We’ve got two insect feeding stations to try. These are just dishes essentially with sponges to put the butterfly food on. Sugar water will attract butterflies and other insects if you fancy trying it, just like our bee dish.

In previous years I’ve seen people criticize these kits as cruel and reducing a live animal to the level of a toy. I think this is an unfair claim. It is only reduced to the level of a toy that the children look at and then move on if you treat it as such. This was very much an exciting event the caterpillars arriving. She watched them carefully and they’ve been handled carefully. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that most of my nations favourite naturalists, people like David Attenborough and Chris Packham, will have been egg collectors or used the killing jar to collect butterflies. While these aren’t practises we would do anymore it was this hands-on experience that gave these people their knowledge of the natural world. And from there they have helped countless species. The caterpillars included are painted ladies. These migrate north and south. When I’ve bought these sets I’ve tried to time it so they will be released as the butterflies would be migrating through our country so they aren’t just released into the cold to die. Last year was a bumper year for them so we’ll see how many come through this year.

It also came with a mechanical toy butterfly. You wind it up with the elastic band and then release it to flap. Alice was fascinated by it. That was probably an hours worth of entertainment her working out the mechanism and seeing how to make it fly best.

And that was enough time inside. Thunderstorms had been predicted on the weather forecast so I wanted to get her out for a bit in case we were stuck in. The National Children’s Gardening Week Facebook account had set a competition to create wild art. I gave Alice the brief and left a few bits out and then left her to it.

Lots of grass for hair.

She made a face complete with a bow made from the red leaves, a hair clip from the petals and lipstick made with rose petals.

Then we tried the first of our long-awaited strawberries. Alice has been checking on these daily to see how they’ve been coming on. They’ve been getting redder over the week and I thought it was time to try before the birds take a fancy to them. We haven’t got many but they were very nice. All the better for having been grown by her.

A bit of a lazy day staying at home but we’ve had quite a few good walks out this week. We’re almost at the end of this years 30 days so I’ll be trying to make them exciting ones before we slow the pace down to our normal nature involvement.

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30 Days Wild: Day 25-Princess Poppy saves the bees

Today I left a surprise for Alice to find by the front door.

I’ve been meaning to get Alice this book for a while as she has a number of the Princess Poppy picture books. I’d seen Janey Louise Jones had written several Poppy stories with an environmental theme to them and 30 Days Wild seems like a perfect time to get hold of one of them for her.

The book tells the story of how Princess Poppy learns about the disappearance of the bees. It explains a few differences between honey bees and bumblebees. Then it goes into detail of a few things the girls in the story can do to help. The girls arrange to dress as bees for the Summer fair to let people know how they could help bees. It’s an ideal story for using in schools to teach a few basic facts about bees or introduce a science topic. or as a story to enjoy with a child at home. Alice sat and listened well and had lots of interesting questions and observations as we went through it.

One of the suggestions of how to help is to make a bee bath. A shallow tray of water can give thirsty insects a spot to drink without drowning. Then a few stones ensure they have places they can crawl in if they get stuck.

We set it up on the bench near the borage where lots of the bees are visiting.

Then Alice went looking for bees and trying to snap them.

Amy has borrowed one of the more high powered cameras from school to see how much of a difference it makes to the photos having something higher spec. It really did improve the quality of what we could achieve but we can’t afford a swisher camera yet, so just enjoy for a few days.

My camera is a Nikon D3100 which is a decade old. I can manage reasonable photos but nothing too impressive.

And a photo to make Princess Poppy smile.

And a few taken on the fancier camera.

A hoverfly on the lychnis.

Alice went on to tell Amy different bits she’s learnt from the book and she was telling me the bees in the park were bumblebees. And she asked for her new book at bedtime. There is another environmental-themed Poppy story on ‘no plastic‘. We normally do a beach clean as part of our 30 Days Wild. However, with lockdown, we haven’t been going to the beach as much. At the start of lockdown, there wasn’t any rubbish with few visitors whereas now there is a mass of rubbish. But we don’t Alice touching things handled by other people so we’ll have to leave this activity until it’s a bit safer. For now, we’ll concentrate on making our garden a paradise for wildlife.

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30 Days Wild: Day 24-Forest School

It is getting towards the end of the year where schools ask for feedback on your child’s year. We were asked about Alice’s experiences in Nursery over the last year and I felt compelled to write beyond the parent’s Facebook group. Alice attended Forest School as part of her nursery provision. Her nursery has a small woodland area attached to the main nursery. She spent the mornings in Forest school and then in the afternoons she accessed the more mainstream nursery setting, giving her the best of both worlds.

I was keen for Alice to attend Forest School when we found out it was an option at the nursery. Having worked as a teacher in Early Years for a decade I know how little time the children will get outside as they move up through school. Which is a great pity as the benefits of outdoor play have been discussed again and again. Here in the UK, we start formal education very early, while many other countries hold off until 7 years old and achieve better results. In Finland, the children regularly top education league tables, yet they are one of the countries that spend less time in the classroom. Forest school offers this outdoor time for our children’s education.

For Alice, Forst School has given her the time outside that clearly matters to me. Amy was worried about how hardy she’d be, whether she’d cope with the seasons changing. But this is part of the setup. They build resilience and adaptability. Some days they can’t do what they want to do, but they will still do something enjoyable. Alice is very particular about doing things outside of school as a result. She is happy playing with mud and going out in bad weather so long as we have the right kit on.

As a society, we do not let our children play out in the same way as when I was young. We had large periods of unstructured outdoor play with minimal supervision. I climbed trees, I made dens, I made a mess. We learned how to manage our own risk. You realised your limits of how far you could climb a tree. Whereas many children now don’t develop this positive attitude of being able to give things a go as they don’t have the opportunity. Through Forest School, the children get the chance to engage in potentially dangerous activities, but they are supervised and they learn about the risks involved. Alice knows the correct way to move around the outside of a campfire. She has used tools. She’s had that chance to learn how to use these things safely managed by excellent staff. I’ve seen too many children who reach KS1 and have no tool ability. If you give them a pair of scissors they look ready to cry. Whereas Alice can use tools efficiently and safely.

The forest area makes for a wonderful environment to play in. As well as the obvious benefits of learning about the natural world it is a fantastic spot for the imagination. If you think of how many fairy tale adventures take place in the forest the forest school gives a background for fairies and witches and all sorts of adventures. Alice has developed a wonderful imagination over the last few years drawing on her experiences with friends in forest school and her knowledge of stories.

She’s had the chance to engage in lots of craft activities. She’s made tie-die from natural materials in the woodland. She’s painted, chalked and created things from wood. They’ve regularly cooked on the campfire encouraging her to eat new things. She’s a fussy eater but she’ll now eat sausages, which might not seem amazing to many parents but when you’ve spent 4 years fighting every tea time any food she’ll eat is a victory.

Many parents will currently be nervous about sending their children to nurseries while Corona Virus hangs over our heads, but the outdoor setting is potentially less dangerous for the spread. Many schools are looking into alternative outdoor provision as a result. We haven’t currently put Alice back in as we don’t need to, but if you are needing to put your child back in education or childcare I would encourage you to look at places providing Forest School or alternative outdoor education.

I know many parents worry that all this time outside will stifle their education, hold them back from developing the skills they need for the rest of school. So I’m going to give you an example of what Alice did today. Alice has been waking up during the night and wanting to come in with us. We’ve discussed why she keeps wanting to as we are knackered. She keeps blaming the owls outside waking her up. There are no owls outside her window, in the garden or doing any waking up. It’s an excuse, but one we’ve gone along with as we’re concerned about how lockdown has affected her. She decided that to sort this out she needed to make a sign. She got a sheet of paper and told me she needed to draw an owl with a cross through it so the owls know not to hoot. I asked if she wanted to look at how to draw an owl first. She confidently told me she knew how. She drew her picture explaining it needed wings and a beak and she then needed to draw a baby owl so they know not to hoot too.

She then asked if I could write “no owls” for her to copy. While she did copy she could name each of the letters as she went and has very good pencil control for a child who has just turned 4. Then she found tape to put it up in her window so the owls can see it at night.

So, for any parent worried their child won’t achieve through Forest School you can see Alice is capable of achieving just fine. She shows confidence and independence in creating the sign, fine-motor in the drawing, knowledge of the world and a good vocabulary talking about the owls and reading skills naming the letters. Plus on top of all of this a wonderful imagination in coming up with this plan to help her sleep. I’m sure the wonderful education she received through the nursery and forest school have all contributed to this.

If you are interested in learning more about Forest School Stuart Jackson did a great interview on the Skinny Jeans Gardener’s podcast a few weeks back. Or have a look at the Forset School Association for a more in-depth look. Alice had a wonderful time through Forest School and her nursery and we are thankful she had these chances.

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30 Days Wild: Day 20-Broomsticks

Following on from our magic days earlier in the week Alice had requested a broom for her beat baby cuddly toy to go with her wand. I did most of the construction today but once she’s been shown how to do something she’ll usually give it a go later in the week. So between downpours we managed a quick craft job in the garden. These are easy to make and you can make them on the go if you carry a bit string.

I collected up one thicker stick and a pile of thinner sticks and cut to the same length. I then wrapped it in florist wire to keep it secure.

Then to neaten it up and keep the look of a broom I wrapped it with twine.

Then the two of them went flying back and forth around the garden. She did lots of ‘flights’ jumping off the slide.

Then she helped out as the feeders were looking empty.

Though we moved off fast as we were looking to be swarmed.

I hope you enjoyed our simple craft for today. A good little bit of stick play for the imagination.

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30 Days Wild: Day 16-Drawing outside

Today we took our phonics outside and practised the letters we have covered so far using chalk to practise writing.

And some wild drawing.

Followed by a butterfly.

Our bumpy concrete isn’t the easiest for drawing on. I maybe need to get some jumbo chalks to make it a bit easier.

After dinner, we headed out for our walk.

Plenty of wildlife to be found.

And a walk through the secret passage.

We found a few woodlice in the den and Alice was fascinated and watched for a good few minutes.

Whereas I was more interested in this little beetle.

And a couple of bees back in the gardens. The hardy geraniums still bringing them all in. You can see the proboscis in action here.

And another getting stuck in.

Alice was a good little helper we planted some fresh lettuce and sprouts and netted so it doesn’t all get chomped by the birds this time.

And Alice helped with wheeling round brown waste to the compost. I’m taking out lots of forget-me-nots and aquilegia now they are spent to give the plants more space and airflow around them.

A good bit of work achieved in the garden together. Lots shooting up now we’ve had some rain and sun. A few areas too congested and in need of thining more. I’ll need to look at getting out with Alice to get it ready for our dahlias from seed which are shooting up now.

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30 Days of Wild: Day 15-Spells

Having made the stick wands I thought we’d carry on with the magic theme and have a go at spell books and some time in the mud kitchen on potion-making. Alice had started playing this at the den and when we returned home so I was looking to extend her play with a few more ideas.

We started with the wonderful book spells by Emily Gravett. This book tells the tale of a little frog who finds a spellbook and dreams of being a handsome prince. Each page is split in half and can be turned to make different spells. The illustrations of lovely. The book design with the half pages is playful and the story is funny. It’s a good starting point for any magic lover.

I did a bit of prep work on this project preparing some special paper to make a spellbook. I used two special spray paints to give the paper an aged effect but you could easily use tea bags or buy the paper that already looks aged.

I then folded to construct a book.

I’ve said before that I like to introduce tasks through letters. I thought this one would suit a scroll. Children often really buy into messages delivered this way. They are no longer doing a job for you. They are doing it for the person you’ve suggested whether that be a fairy or messages from the teddies. So long as you buy into it they go along with the silliness. So the plotline I created was that the witch had accidentally cast a spell on her book and she had made all the spells vanish. She needed our help to write some new spells.

Then I engaged in a bit of roleplay pretending to hear a noise upstairs. She went upstairs to investigate and found the scroll delivered by the owl. She can pick out her name and the pictures are so she knew who it was from. She really bought into this one talking about the witch and how she was a good witch and adding lots of extra detail to the character of the letters sender.

Back downstairs we worked on one spellbook together with me modelling a few examples to spark her own imagination.

Alice came up with lots of wonderful ideas of her own for spells.

She had a good go at copying a few words as well as writing lots of numbers for quantities for ingredients. So we got lovely mark-making, imagination and maths from this part of our play. I particularly like her frog.

It kept her attention for a good while and she filled two books with spells before taking her book off to find her wand and cauldron.

All kitted up we headed out. Alice was keen to find a stick as she felt Amy missed out on a wand yesterday. She found one quickly and got a basic wand constructed.

She had a good play around the den making her spells.

And then a bit of a rest and a snack together.

Amy took some spectacular bee photos with the macro lens.

Mine less so, but I was using the mid range lens rather than the macro.

All in all a magical adventure out. The fact that Alice referred to it as an adventure when we returned home makes me feel I did something right.

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30 Days Wild: Day 14-Stick wands

I was asked yesterday if I’d like to feature as a guest blog on Little Acorns website. They are an online shop selling nice open-ended wood toys. Lots of nice toys for young minds to explore. They are looking to feature several dad’s blogs about 30 days wild and they asked if they could feature my Ladybird Maths blog. So, it’s up on their site. It’s nice to know the blogs are being read and even nicer that people feel there worth sharing.

For tea earlier in the week we made our own pizzas with bases we got from the eco pantry at Alice’s nursery. They’ve carried on opening it during lockdown with social distancing in place. The eco pantry gets given food from the supermarkets that for various reasons isn’t going to be sold. It’s either about to go out of date or the labels were done wrong or they’ve just got too much of something. It would contribute to the problem of food waste. So for a pound a visit we get to choose 7 items. These schemes are massively useful for helping the environment as it means perfectly good food doesn’t go to waste, so more food doesn’t need to be sold in its place.

Alice enjoyed the process of making it though she was fussier about eating it.

Then we started yesterday with a quick craft job. We had a pile of circles left from our fish plates and I’d mentioned we could make a very hungry caterpillar.

Then Alice decided she wanted to make a chrysalis and draw a butterfly.

A nice little picture.

Then as the rain was looking like it would hold off and the wind had died down we made it out for a walk. We found a delightful little hoverfly straight out the door on the ferns.

On the walk to the park, we spotted plenty of wildflowers in the wall that borders the park.

Ivy leaved toadflax scrambling along the wall.

I think this is yellow cordalis, a member of the poppy family.

And a tiny Asplenium scolopendrium in the wall.

One of the activities I’d had at the back of mind for 30 days wild was to play stick wands and we found a perfect stick as we entered the park.

The meadow area is still in full buttercup glory mode.

There are still lots of ladybird larvae to be found.

And a few moved onto pupa.

The den area had been moved around a bit again and Alice decided she was going to make potions with the grass seed heads.

Then using a bit of florist wire we added a few found items to her wand.

And she cast lots of spells.

Across the bigger of the fields a sea fret was blowing in. Possibly as a result of Alice’s spells and potions.

Back at home we looked at adding to the wand from the craft box. A bit of ribbon, a flower hair slide and some string around the handle for ease of grip.

A pretty snazzy wand.

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30 Days Wild: Day 11-Flower card

After a busy day previously and as it was pretty gloomy and wet outside I settled on a quiet day. Alice was keen to make a card for the staff at her nursery. So, I thought we could use the pressed flowers from earlier in the week. We selected a card and an envelope to construct it.

Alice arranged the flowers on the card and we put it in a laminating sheet.

Alice waited eagerly for the sheet to come out.

Alice wrote and drew inside her card.

She’s starting to want to know how to write different words, so I’ve introduced ‘love’ to her. Her fine motor is excellent but still trying to encourage her to mark make more and attempt writing what she wants to put down.

Then we assembled her laminated flowers onto the card with her special tape and she drew some extra flowers for good measure.

I hope the nursery like it. She spent half her time in forest school and half the time in the nursery and she loved it. The staff there have been wonderful and both me and Amy will be sad to see her move up into school having missed the last few months with the staff she loved so much.

For more 30 days ideas check this year’s contents page and the ideas pages.

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