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Mr. Smarty Plants - Bluebonnets as a source of nitrogen fixation

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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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