To continue watching your bean plants develop, put a few soaked beans on a wet paper towel in a covered container or sealed plastic bag. Compare the structures that emerge to those you saw in the bean embryo. What emerges first from the sprouting bean? Can you tell the difference between the cotyledon and the true leaves?
Try examining the insides of other seeds, especially those you might find in your kitchen. Rice, corn, wheat, peas, peanuts, and almonds are all seeds. Do they look similar to beans?
You’ll find that corn, rice, and wheat don’t easily split into two halves, as the bean did, and the embryo may be smaller. These plants, called monocots, have one small cotyledon, and store the majority of their embryo’s food in a structure called the endosperm. Like the beans you examined here, peas, almonds, and peanuts are all dicots.
This Science Snack is part of a collection that highlights Black artists, scientists, inventors, and thinkers whose work aids or expands our understanding of the phenomena explored in the Snack.
Source: Tuskegee University Archives/Museum
George Washington Carver (1864–1943), pictured above, was an agricultural scientist, inventor, and professor. Carver applied his knowledge of soil chemistry to help save the cotton farms that were failing in the South. He realized that years of growing cotton had depleted the soil, and by growing nitrogen-fixing plants like peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes, the soil could be restored. Not only did crop rotation produce more cotton, but also a bonus of surplus peanuts. Carver developed over 300 uses for peanuts. Born a slave who became a professor, he was remembered for his peanuts after testifying before Congress on behalf of the peanut industry. Carver was the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. In this Science Snack, you can explore the parts of a seed and learn what helps it grow.