Science Experiment: Colorful Carnations

Colorful Carnations

When Ebenezer Brigham first settled here in 1828, prairie and oak savanna covered much of Southwestern Wisconsin. Here on the grounds of Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark, the varied plants that made these areas so unique may be found in our ongoing prairie and oak savanna restoration projects. Birds, butterflies and many other animals and insects make their homes in these diverse environments.

You will need: White Carnations, Food Coloring, Floral Water Tubes, Sharp Scissors

  1. Add 10 drops of food coloring into a container
  2. Fill with water. Add more drops if necessary to achieve a nice dark color.
  3. Cut each stem of carnations at an angle and place inside a vase.
  4. Wait & watch! Within a few hours, you’ll begin to see the carnations change color.

Dig Deeper

Flowers and plants drink water through their roots. In cut flowers, since there are no roots, water travels from the cut directly into the stems and travels to the petals and other parts of the plant. Through three properties, color water is transported to the petals and the color shows up in the xylem cells on the petals.

Three factors contribute to the transportation of water:

  • Capillary action Inside the stem, there is tube-like transport tissue, called xylem, that brings water and nutrients to different parts of the plant. Water molecules are attracted to the surface of the xylem cells by weak electrical attractions. This sticky property is called adhesion. Water automatically moves up the xylem due to adhesion and the resulting movement is called capillary action​​.
  • Cohesion Water molecules are not only attracted to the surface of xylem (adhesion), but they are also attracted to one another. This property is called cohesion. Because of cohesion, water molecules fill the column in the xylem as they move up and act as a continuous stream of water​​.
  • Transpiration Water evaporates from the plant through transpiration. As water evaporates in the petals or any part of the plant exposed to air, a negative pressure is created in the xylem, resulting in suction pulling the water upward just like you draw water upward when you suck on a straw​