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Black Eyed Susans Mysteriously Appear in Garden

A privately owned flower garden contains black-eyed Susan flowers, which the owner never planted. Upon making this discovery of “mystery flowers”, she wonders who or what could have planted them. How did these flowers get there? What other flowers could be mixed in among the others that also were not planted by the owner?

Carroll, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • Where do you think the black-eyed Susan seeds came from?
  • What might cause flowers to seem to appear from out of nowhere?
  • How far do you think a black-eyed Susan seed might travel in order to be planted in the flower garden?

Classroom Suggestions

  • Students could: 
    • Brainstorm how seeds travel 
      • Anchor chart 
    • Consider how seeds are planted without human help 
      • Observe the way local trees’ seeds travel, such as “helicopter seeds” from maple trees 
    • Students could stand on chairs, desks or tables (a variety of heights indoors) and drop the seeds, then measure the distance traveled from each drop. 
      • Do the same type of activity outside, preferably on a playground where equipment is available to stand on. Discuss whether wind played a factor in the distance the seed traveled. 
    • Measure the distance different seeds can travel in windy conditions 
      • Use a small fan to create mild wind conditions 
      • Adjust the fan speed to create more gusts. 
      • Consider bringing in other tools to create wind, such as a leaf blower or hair dryer. 
    • Compare and contrast the physical properties of seeds 
    • Investigate which seeds stick to animal fur and which do not 
      • With a variety of seeds and animal furs, brush the furs up against the seeds to see which stick to the fur and which do not. 
      • Attempt to “travel” with the furs and measure how far the seed can travel before it drops.

Related Resources

  • The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle | YouTube: A book that shows the journey of a seed. Encounters with wind, animals, water and even playful children nearly destroy the tiny seed. Students listen to find if the seed ever can be planted, and discover that it indeed grows to be a beautiful flower that also drops seeds, only to start the cycle all over again. 
  • Maple Seeds Falling | YouTube: A video capturing different angles in which maple tree helicopter seeds fall in a spiral formation.
  • Nature Cat: Seed Soaring | PBS LearningMedia: An interactive game for students to watch and learn how a dandelion seed gets dispersed in a forest. 

Iowa Core Alignment


Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants

Credit Info

Submitted by Holly Janning

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