The world is full of flowers. They grow on every continent. They grow in the hottest, driest deserts and in the frozen Arctic. People grow them year-round. No matter where you live, you can usually see a flower somewhere.
WHAT’S A FLOWER FOR?
What exactly is a flower? What’s it for?
Plants make flowers because flowers make seeds. Seeds are a way many plants reproduce, or make new plants. So, flowers help plants reproduce themselves.
Imagine a world without fruit—without apples and oranges and blueberries. There wouldn’t be any strawberry shortcake, cherry pie, or raspberry sherbet either. And we wouldn’t be very healthy. We get a lot of important vitamins from eating fruit.
WHAT IS FRUIT?
We think of fruit primarily as something to eat. But fruit has a purpose quite apart from our needs. Fruit is part of a flowering plant. It’s the part that carries the seeds. The purpose of fruit is to protect a plant’s seeds and help them get spread about. Wind and water spread seeds. So do animals when they eat fruit and drop the seeds. The seeds grow into new plants.
Have you ever eaten a mushroom? How? On pizza? In salad? Maybe you had mushrooms in an omelet. Maybe you don’t even like mushrooms! Some people don’t. But many people do and eat them in all kinds of ways.
WHAT’S A MUSHROOM?
A mushroom is a fungus. Scientists used to think that mushrooms and other fungi (plural of fungus) were plants. Now they know that fungi are very different from plants. Fungi get their food in a different way than plants. They also reproduce differently from plants. Fungi are now considered a completely different form of life.
Do you like warm weather? Do you wish it could be warmer still? Be careful what you wish for. The Earth may be moving in that direction. The trend is called global warming.
Not all scientists agree that global warming is happening. Some say it is impossible to know if the climate is changing overall. After all, temperatures vary from day to day and year to year. Most scientists, however, say the trend is up. The warmest days are warmer, the coldest days not as cold. They point out that the ten warmest years of the last century happened after 1980. The three hottest came after 1990. The hottest year on record was 1998.
They grow on mountains and in deserts. They grow in freshwater lakes and streams. They grow in the heat of the tropics and in places covered with snow. They even grow in the salt water of the ocean. What are they? Plants, of course!
WHAT IS A PLANT?
Plants are one of the five main groups of living things. These groups are called kingdoms. The plant kingdom includes such living things as grasses, trees, ferns, bushes, and flowers. Botanists, the scientists who study plants, have counted more than 260,000 species (kinds) of plants.