Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

eharnett's picture

PlAnTz 2 ReDuX

Members: Dr. Kaitlin Cough, Dr. Rachel Tashjian, Dr. Elizabeth Harnett

Once upon a time, on a Planet named Farther, three doctors explored new territory...

We tried to classify the plants into groups as little as possible and rather tried to figure out what made each plant different from the next. We decided to do this in reaction to esteemed scholar Will Franklin’s plant guide. While we were able to distinguish plants from other forms because of his green/chlorophyll relationship, we lacked the tools to determine some of the characteristics laid out.

We discovered 14 different types of plant and, rather then categorizing them based on physical attributes, we called them Plant A, Plant B, etc. There were similar characteristics that we used to observe the plant, including overall plant proportions and stem and leaf design (and, as stated, the presence of chlorophyll). Here are brief summaries of the characteristics that we found for each plant:

Plant A: On average 22 cm tall, leaves 3-3.5 cm long, layers of leaves coming from the center of the stem.

Plant B: On average 1.5 cm tall, leaves .5 cm long, average 3 heart-shaped leafs per stem.

Plant C: On average 30 cm tall, 2 cm wide, long blade.

Plant D: On average 18 cm tall, average 20 leaves per stem.

Plant E: On average 1.5 meters tall, leaves 2 cm long, 3 cm wide, leaves coming off the side from the stem, had red berries.

Plant F: On average 7 meters tall, leaves 9 cm long, 6 cm wide, leaves found in clumps of six, leaves sprout from sides of stem.

Plant G: On average 7 meters tall, leaves 10 cm long, 5.5 cm ide, leaves in clumps of five, leaves coming from the center.

Plant H: On average .3 mm tall, dark green

Plant I: On average 6-16cm in height, 0.4cm wide, flat and thin

Plant J: On average 4-14cm in height, fleshy stem 0.1cm wide, leaves 0.3cm wide

Plant K: On average 2-10cm in height, 0.1cm wide, leaves 0.3cm wide,

Plant L: On average 10-28cm in height, fleshy stem 0.1cm wide, leaves 0.6cm wide. Characterized by a wider top with small pods growing off of it. The top was 2.7cm in height, with orange and purple hairs growing between the pods. Pods were 0.4cm long, 0.1cm wide and green.

Plant M: On average 2cm long, fleshy stem less than 0.1cm, leaves 0.1cm long, 0.01cm wide, small and densely clustered on the stem.

Plant N: On average 5cm in height, red stem 2cm wide, green leaves with red edges sprouting from the top. Leaves were, on average, 0.5cm wide at their widest point.

We also examined “natural clusters,” as suggested by our funding agencies. We found no completely independent forms, although there were plants that seemed more dominant in areas. For example, plant A thrived in size and coverage, whereas plants H-N coexisted in equal coverage.

In response to the report on Farther we read previously, we were hesitant to classify our findings into categories such as “shrub-like” or “small.” Instead, we worked on identifying the plants individually, differentiating them by specific size (cm) and form (though we know that not every plant of the same type will have a set size and number of leaves, we recognized general proportions in width to height). The writers of the first report debated whether brown specimen, anomalous to others forms, were in fact plants. We attempted to disregard color, focusing instead on the forms themselves. Our findings (which found 14 plants) when contrasted with the other group’s (18) indicate that plant life at this scale is less diverse. We believe this is because the former group looked at plants through a lens of what they knew from Earth (for example, shrub-like, tree-like, grass-like), whereas we looked for quantitative characteristics and their relations to one another. If given more funding for equipment that would allow us to see the plants in smaller detail, we could surely classify them further.


To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
6 + 8 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.