Adriana, Home School

Queen Anne’s Lace – A Favorite from my Childhood and a Lesson in Capillary Action

Strolling down my road on long walks as a young girl I would love to collect Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a very common white, flat-topped flower that resembles lace and often has a solitary purple flower in the center. It is found in fields, meadows and along roadsides from late spring until mid-fall. Its name is derived from a legend that tells of Queen Anne of England pricking her finger and a drop of blood landing on white lace she was sewing. Queen Anne’s Lace is also known as “Wild Carrot” and its roots are edible. Early Europeans cultivated it using the root in soups, stews, salads and teas! As for me, in my youth, I never dreamed of using the flower this way! I had other magical ways of turning this common weed into a wonder!

For me, Queen Anne’s Lace was magical. I would look forward to collecting these beautifully elegant flowers to bring home and transform into a colorful display. My favorite thing about these flowers was to put them in jars of food coloring and watch the colors magically change before my eyes! It was amazing! It sparked so much curiosity. Little did I know the science that was involved. This flower experiment was something my mom started with us as kids and is a tradition that captivates my own children today.

Coloring Queen Anne’s Lace is a fantastic and simple lesson for children in capillary action. All you need are some flowers, some small jars or vases, food coloring and a little time and patience. Add a handful of drops of food coloring and a flower to each jar of water. Depending on how much water and food coloring you add, you will most likely start to see your flower change color over the course of the day. How does the water travel from the roots to the rest of the plant? Tiny tubes inside the stem called xylem draw the water up from the roots like a straw by a process called capillary action.

Leo and I cut the stem in half so we could try and see the xylem tubes

Capillary action is what happens when water travels up things like small tubes. The water molecules stick to one another and to the walls of the tube which allows it to move upward. The molecules that stick to each other pull more water after it as it climbs. Capillary action lets water travel up to all the different parts of a plant through the xylem tubes in the stem.

You could also try this experiment with stalks of celery. Place a stalk of celery into a jar of food coloring and water. After about 20 minutes you can cult the stalk in half and see the tubes changing color. If you leave the stalks overnight you will also see the leaves at the top of the stalk change color.

Wishing you some Beautiful summer strolls in nature that bring you Wonder and Amazement!