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Is Winter Grass Dead or Dormant?

When the weather turns cold, the grass observably changes and turns brown. When leaves lose their color they shrivel up and decompose. Is the brown grass dead? Why it doesn’t decompose? Why do these changes happen? Through our investigation, we found that as the temperature goes down, grass goes dormant due to a process called desiccation. This process occurs in cold and windy areas such as Iowa! Cold wind causes the grass blades to lose moisture which causes the grass to give its brown appearance without decomposing.

Sioux Center, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • What might cause the grass to get to this state?
  • What does a plant; such as grass, need in order to live?

Classroom Suggestions

  • Students could: 
    • Study of the change of seasons 
      • What type of changes occur during the winter, how does this affect grass/other plants? 
    • Study of plant life 
      • What do plants need in order to live or appear alive? 
      • Do an investigation to observe grass during the winter months and compare it to what it looks like during other months. 
      • Have discussions about the changes noticed and why students think they happened.
      • Discuss the process of desiccation and whether the grass is actually dormant.

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment


Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow

Credit Info

Submitted by Amanda DeVries and Joshua Schouten

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