Six metre straws! (by Sixth Form Biology Student Ed Wescott)

Today in the practical we were making artificial xylem which are found within plants using straws. We had a water source (a jug of water) and a selection of straws which we had to place together forming a long xylem structure. We had to make sure that there were no possible air pockets at the joining sections of the straws, otherwise this would prevent water from travelling up the straw due to a lack of pressure. Water has a property known as cohesion where the water molecules are attracted to each other by Hydrogen bonds allowing a continuous flow of water up the xylem vessel which is demonstrated through transpiration (the evaporation of water from a plant) To simulate the effect of transpiration we sucked on the straws to draw water up our model xylem.

We learnt from the experience that the system of the xylem is more complex than originally thought, especially as the water is going against the force of gravity up to over 100 meters in giant red wood trees!

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