The Big Question

How is the poinsettia different to other flowering plants?

How is the poinsettia different to other flowering plants?

Classroom view

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:

Living things and their habitats , Plants , Evolution and inheritance

Planning an investigation will really get your class thinking like scientists. How will they investigate the different parts of the poinsettia plant and find out about what they do?

Run the activity

1. Plan an investigation around a Big Question. What do the pupils already know about the parts of a flowering plant and their functions?

  • Do you notice any similarities between the poinsettia and other common flowering plants?
  • Do you notice anything unusual about the poinsettia compared to other common flowering plants?
  • Can you identify the leaves and petals of the poinsettia and talk about their functions?
  • Why do you think this plant survives during winter months?

2. How will the group explore the question? Prompt pupils to explain their ideas, qualify them and refine them based on views expressed by other people. What is their plan for the investigation?

3. Ask the class to imagine they had to present their investigation at a school assembly or to their family, how would they show their action plan?

Background science

The poinsettia blooms in December and is a favourite in churches and homes for the holidays. The colourful, bright red parts of the poinsettia are not the petals but rather they are leaf-like structures, known as bracts or modified leaves. The actual flowers, or cyathia, are tiny yellow cup-like capsules clustered in the centre of the bracts.

The colourful bracts protect the male and female parts of the flower during its December bloom. They also mimic petals to attract pollinators, such as birds and insects, to the flowers. The image of the poinsettia shows the necessity for these bracts during pollination, by demonstrating the relative size of the flowers compared with the entire plant. After pollination, the leaves and bracts are no longer required so are discarded and fall from the plant.

Take it further

Find out more about how other flowering plants have developed different ways to attract pollinators in our What’s Going On? activity, Alien shapes.

Image credit: Poinsettia by Angelinaelv via Pixabay CC0