Tropisms - How Do Plants Grow in Space?

In this short activity, students use recently published research into plant behaviour, conducted on the International Space Station, to investigate tropisms.

The scientists made time-lapse videos of the germinating seedlings on Earth and in space, and these have been uploaded onto YouTube for use by the public. Students can look at the differences between gravitropic and phototropic growth of of the seedlings, and consider the differences between the space-grown and Earth-grown plants.

Students may notice that the flight plants grew more slowly than the ground control plants. The scientists used confocal microscopy to image sections of the roots, and found that although the number of cells was equivalent, the cells on the ground control plants were elongated compared to the flight plants, making the roots as a whole somewhat longer. The differences in length were a result of cell size rather than cell division.

This resource was produced by Science & Plants for Schools (SAPS). 

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