We have been continuing our summer quest of learning the seven most common families of plants with the Parsley family. The Parsley family is identified by its often hollow stalk, flower with five petals, five stamen and compound umbels on stems radiating from a single point at the end of the stalk.
An umbel is a group of stems that come out from a single point in the stem and look like an upside-down umbrella. The compound umbels which are the distinctive feature of the parsley family have flowers that radiate out in an umbel shape from the end of each of the points that end the first umbel.
We are familiar with many members of this family, including carrots, (in fact this family is sometimes referred to as the carrot family) Queen Anne's Lace (which is also called wild carrot), celery, cumin, anise, dill, fennel, parsnips and, of course, parsley.
We have looked at the hollow tubes in a stalk of celery an we put the stalk in a cup of water colored blue so that we could see the hollow tubes better.
In a few days, when they see coloring in the celery stalks, you can talk about how the hollow tubes are prominent in the parsley family but that all plants have these "veins" and are called xylem in their stems, and that the xylem take water and minerals from the roots to other parts of the plant. You can also tell them that there are other tubes in plant stems called Phloem, which take the sugars, the plant's "food" created during the process of photosynthesis, to other parts of the plant.
This family of plants is also important to learn because the two deadliest plants in America belong in its ranks:Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock.
The Queen Anne's Lace, because it is so prevalent in the wild (at least in our area) is a good choice of plant to gather to study this family.
"When the flowers wither and the fruits begin to form, every one of the little umbels turns toward the center, its stalk curving over so that the outside umbels reach over and close the whole flower-head; and the thread-like bracts at the base reach up as if they, too, were in the family councils, and must do their slender duty in helping to make the fading flowers into a little, tightfisted clump."
-Handbook of Nature Study, p.543
|In this bunch of Queen Anne's Lace we can see the small, but mature flowers, the fruit clusters beginning to form and one which has already become a "bird's nest."|
"Queen Anne's Lace is a weed which came to us from Europe and flourishes better here than on its native soil. It has beautiful blossoms set in clusters and it matures many seeds which it manages to plant successfully." -HNS, p.544
|Our Queen Anne's Lace pictures from our nature study journals.|
The Queen Anne's Lace flower is such a lovely composite flower, with each of the flower cluster making up many florets. A composite flower is a collection of many flowers gathered together in one flower. If you look closely enough you can see that each tiny floret has five petals and if you get a magnifying glass, you should be able to see five tiny stamens. Imagine all the seeds it must produce! Because of the hollow stems, it is also a good plant to place in colored water, which will color the white blossoms.