Foldscope Explores… Smiling Grass!
The beginning of spring is when lawns start turning green and the picture of smiling faces inside grass viewed under a microscope starts making the rounds on social media. This image has always intrigued me, so I decided to use my Foldscope to see if the grass in my yard is smiling at me!
What Are Those Smiling Faces?
There are no actual faces inside the grass. What you are looking at are the vascular bundles that provide water and nutrients to the plant. You can think of the vascular bundles as a bunch of tubes that are lined up vertically to make up the stalk of the grass. There are two types of structures in the vascular bundles. Xylem is the wider diameter structure that carries water up from the roots to the tip of the blade of grass. The second structure is phloem, which is narrower and carries nutrients either up or down the blade of grass. When a cross section of grass stem is placed under a microscope, you can see the circular ends of the xylem and phloem. Figure 2 shows the xylem and phloem in the vascular bundle of an asparagus stem. All of those circles are the ends of the xylem and phloem “tubes.”
How Do You Create The Slides?
In order to study the vascular bundles of blades of grass, you have to create very thin slices of grass to place on a slide. It has to be thin because the light from behind the slide must be able to pass all the way through the grass for you to see a magnified image of the microscopic structures. This is tricky to do because the slices of grass are so thin that they tend to fall over to lay flat on the slide. To overcome this obstacle, place a drop of clear nail polish on the slide (Figure 3, left). Use tweezers to gently place the blade of grass into the drop of nail polish so that it is sitting on its side (Figure 3, center). Place a glass cover slip over the grass (don’t press it down - you could knock over the blade of grass!), and let it dry (Figure 3, right). Once the nail polish has dried, the grass can be studied in your Foldscope.
Is My Grass Smiling?
So, did I find smiley faces in my grass? Not exactly. When I put the slide into my Foldscope, I saw what looked like faces, but they weren’t smiling. Instead, I saw spooky, ghost-like “faces” staring back at me! The xylem and phloem bundles just happened to line up to form what looked like eyes and an open mouth.
What can your Foldscope help you find in the blades of grass around you? Share your microscopic images on the Microcosmos and use social media to tag us with the results of your explorations, creations, and discoveries! We love to see how Foldscopers around the world are using their Foldscopes in new and innovative ways!