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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 13, 2007

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Bluebonnets as a source of nitrogen fixation
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am fascinated by Texas Bluebonnets and want to introduce them to k-12 students as a major source of Nitrogen fixation. As I want to present this to the teachers can I get any guidance from you, like some hands-on activity about seed germination or nitrogen fixation that can be completed within 10 minutes?

ANSWER:

A good place to start would be the Wildflower Center's article on Texas Bluebonnets which includes a short discussion of the species' capacity to fix nitrogen as well as a lengthy discussion on how to germinate bluebonnets. A succinct overview of nitrogen fixation may be found on Wikipedia. A more in-depth discussion of the topic may be found at Dr. David Dalton's Reed College webpage. We know of no simple teaching demonstrations for nitrogen fixation. However, it would be a simple matter to wash the soil off roots of bluebonnets and show the students what the rhizobium nodules look like along with a discussion of how they work.
 

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