Kids' Activity: Sweet Leaves and Xylem Stems

by Melissa Jaramilllo and Julie Snyder

How does a plant move water and nutrients from its roots to its leaves? Look at a cut stalk of celery. Do you see all the round cells? You're looking at the ends of special straw-like plant cells -- a xylem stem. Sometimes celery has "strings." These strings are several xylem cells shoved together. Today's experiment will help you see and taste that small, water-soluble molecules -- like color pigments and sugar -- are transported by water through xylem stem to the leaves and flowers of a plant.

See the xylem stem at work!
• Two glasses
• Water
• Food coloring
• Sharp knife
• White carnations or Queen Anne's Lace

Fill both glasses ½ full of water. Place 10-12 drops of blue food coloring in one glass; 10-12 drops of red food coloring in the other. Place a carnation with a freshly cut stem in each glass. Check every few hours and record what you observe.

Extra Activity:
Carefully slice 5 inches vertically up the stem of one carnation, dividing the stem into two equal parts, still attached to the flower. Put each stem half in a different color of water. Check every few hours and record any color changes.

Taste the xylem stem at work!
• 2 inner celery stalks with leaves
• 2 glasses
• Sugar
• Water
• Measuring spoon
• Masking tape
• Pen

Fill each glass ½ full of water. With masking tape, label the glasses "sweetened" and "control." Add 4 tablespoons sugar to the "sweetened" glass and stir to dissolve. Place one stalk of celery in each glass. Set in a safe place for 2 days; taste* leaves from each stalk. What do you notice? Do you think that sugar was able to move from the sweetened water in the glass to the leaves?

*Normally you wouldn't taste an experiment. Some chemicals and some plants are poisonous. It is okay this time because each ingredient is safe and a food item.

Julie Snyder is a mom of six, interested in kids, pregnancy, birth, people and lives in the outlying Seattle area. Melissa Jaramillo is mom to many. She's passionate about building, encouraging, and strengthening families on this adventure known as parenthood!

Copyright © Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.