Plant Growth

Plants at SERC
Photo by SERC

Plants are vital to all life on Earth. They are important because plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. In addition, plants make up the base of the food web by producing their own food using light, water, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals. This is why they are known as producers or Autotrophs. Examples of autotrophs on land are trees, vines, or shrubs. Autotrophs can also be found in the upper layers of the ocean, called algae. One of the many services autotrophs provide is to protect against erosion. Erosion is when the force of water, wind, or ice wash away layers of the soil that are necessary to protect against strong weather events like thunderstorms or hurricanes. If you lived on a hill that had little or no autotrophs and it rained really hard, over time, you would be at risk for landslides because their roots hold the soil together. Luckily, there are people who study plants, called botanists or plant ecologists/ scientists, and can tell us about why plants are needed! These scientists study the biology and chemistry of plants. In other words, they study the function of plants and why plants evolved the way they did, among other things. SERC has plant ecologists that study autotrophs and their interactions with other autotrophs, animals, and other living organisms. Read more about their research here: Plant Ecology at SERC.


  • Germination is when the seed has become a tiny plant.
  • To sow seeds means to plant or scatter them in soil so they can start growing.
  • Photosynthesis is a chemical process that explains the way plants eat. It is also one of the processes that produce oxygen.
  • Frost date is the predicted day when it will be too cold to plant anything. This date is important to know because if it is too cold, your new plants will not do well so you have to wait until after this date to plant.
  • Plant hardiness zone helps growers determine what plants can thrive at a specific location. Plants will do well in the zone they are labeled at and in the zone numbers higher than that. For example, a plant that is hardy at zone 5 should be able to survive in zones 5-13 (Zoning in on Hardiness, What zone am I in?).
  • Temperature is a measurement of how hot or cold something is. It is measured in Fahrenheit (F) and Celsius (C) degrees. Temperature in Celsius is commonly used in science, but it is really up to your teachers and school to tell you if they prefer Fahrenheit or Celsius.
  • Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one plant to another. This happens when pollen sticks to a pollinator such as a bee, bird, or bat while feeding on the nectar of a flower. 
Bee Pollination
Learn more about pollinators here!