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Super succulent

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Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:


Take a closer look at this familiar object. Can your class use their reasoning skills to work out what it is?

Run the activity

You will be zooming in and out of the image above – starting very close and stepping back slowly.

1. Start by asking everyone:

  • What do they think the image is and why?
  • What does the image remind them of and why?

2. Every time you zoom out, ask the class:

  • Can they describe the colours, shapes and textures?
  • What do they think the image is now – have they changed their minds?

Background science

The image is of a type of plant known as a flowering succulent. This one is called a Stapelia gigantea and it had large, hairy petals. Other plants have evolved to have hairy leaves for a number of reasons. One reason is that the hairs make them less palatable for animals that would otherwise eat them. This can be especially important in harsh climates such as the desert, where there is little else to eat and plants that were not protected in this way would be unlikely to survive.

The hairs can also slow down water loss, especially where there's dry wind and little rainfall. The hairs also provide a layer of insulation, giving the plant some protection from extremes of temperature. Although we know that any signs of life found on Mars are likely to be microscopic, even they would need to have adapted to the very different conditions on Mars. 


The ExoMars mission is looking for signs of life on Mars. We've got lots of activities to support your own Mars exploration. Read more on our blog! 

Take it further

Ask the children why they think leaves might be hairy. You could go on a nature walk around the school grounds to look at the variety of leaves in their local environment. Can they find any examples of hairy leaves? What else do they notice about the shapes, sizes and colours of different leaves? Give children hand lenses to encourage them to look more closely, and why not as them to draw what they observe. Can't make it outside? Take a look at this Odd One Out showing different types of leaves or this What's Going On? of autumn leaves falling to the ground. Take a look at STEM Learning’s Rocket Seeds activity for more inspiration.