Wild oats on the move

First, study a wild oat seed with a hand lens. Record what you see. The long hair is called an awn. Then follow steps 1-6 below.

1. Cut a small hole in the centre of a circular piece of filter paper or paper towel.

2. Put the paper in a Petri dish lid and press a small piece of sticky putty in the centre.

3. Use a pencil to make a small hole in the sticky putty. Push a wild oat seed into the hole.

4. Add drops of water to the paper to make it thoroughly moist. Go on to Step 5 quickly.

5. Place a glass jar or beaker on the Petri dish lid to cover the sticky putty and seed. It needs to be moist.

6. Looking from above: rotate the Petri dish until the awn points to 12 o'clock and begin observations.

The wild oat awn is hydroscopic and moves rapidly (within a minute) in response to small humidity changes. This experiment shows one way of anchoring the seed and exposing it to different conditions so that the awn's movements can be observed and measured.

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