Flower Power Time

This video explores how a scientist can use observation as one tool to prove a theory. We follow Linnaeus as he attempts to make the world’s first flower clock.


Suitable for Curriculum Point
All Years Working Scientifically - finding patterns in behaviour
Year 1 Identify and describe the basic structure of a variety of common flowering plants, including trees.
Year 3 Explore the part that flowers play in the life cycle of flowering plants, including pollination, seed formation and seed dispersal.
Year 6 Identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.

In this video we learn that each plant species is unique, and actually all individual plants are individuals too (just like every human is different). Each plant species has different behaviours which have evolved over time so that it has the best chance of survival and reproduction.

Carl Linnaeus realised that all plants were unique by using his observation skills and noticing that plants open and close at different times of the day. He then thought he could engineer a garden that tells the time.

Below we provide a full transcript of the video, a supporting worksheet and follow on questions for your class

Questions to follow up with

Carl Linnaeus spent three evenings in his garden watching the same plant. Why do you think he did it for three evenings rather than just one evening?

Linnaeus wanted to make sure that his findings were the same every night. It could be that plants do different things on different days, or at different parts of the month!


To study plant behaviour, do you think three evenings, one after the other, is good enough to understand everything about it?

Nope! Most plants are seasonal, so they will change throughout the year. A good study would take place over several seasons, perhaps over several years, and during different weathers. The same plant would also behave very differently in different climates - this is why the exotic banana plant doesn't bear fruit when grow in Europe (although Linnaeus found a way).


Linnaeus used observation over time to study plants. What other scientific methods could you use to study plants?

This is a great opportunity to discuss different options for scientific enquiry: mainly pattern seeking, identifying, classifying and grouping; comparative testing and research through secondary sources.

It is also a way of identifying the different levels at which you can study living things, i.e from microscopic all the way to ecological.


Linnaeus didn't make a successful flower clock. Why do you think Linnaeus was unsuccessful?

Plants need different conditions (like climate, soil nutrients, animal and fungal species) to grow and reproduce, and even then small changes might affect the way that they open or close.

Therefore it would be difficult to have a garden that grows all of the required plants at the same time. It would have to be a large garden, with gardeners meticulously supporting particular plants to grow. Nothing is impossible though... but we might ask, why bother?


The flower clock was one of Linnaeus' weirder experiments, but there are lots of reasons to study plants. What are some good reasons for studying plants?

Plants are a great indicator for environmental change. If the world is getting hotter, then we will see the effects in plants as they migrate north to their preferred temperature, or become extinct because they can't survive.

Another example of plants and other living organisms being great indicators is lichen's response to nitrogen dioxide - a common air pollutant. Some lichens love nitrogen dioxide, and others hate it, so you can learn about the quality of your air by studying the type of lichen on your trees.

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