Shop Windows to the Universe

The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.

Quickie Questions - Alive and Living - Plants

Date Answered Questioner (age, location) Question Answer

February 9, 2010Skye (age 13, Texas) How does plant roots break down rocks? It is a process that takes time nd many factors. Plant roots exert physical pressure on the rocks. The initially, when thay are not too big, find the creavises and grow in to them, but then they start growing and, as a result, exert pressure from inside the rock. But they also provide a chanel for water and chemical infiltration! accelerating in this way the weathering of the rock.
January 27, 2010Jade (age 11, north carolina) how miuch water does a large tree put back into the water cycle per day A large oak tree can transpire 40 000 gallons (151 000 liters) per year, at an average of 110 gallons (414 liters) per day.
January 11, 2010Cameron (age 23, ) What is the scientific name and full classification of an orange? Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis): Family: Rutaceae, Genus: Citrus.
February 24, 2009Ashley (age 11, Georgia) How living plants give off oxygen? Plants use sunlight, air, and water to make food. This process is called photosynthesis. While they are doing this, they give off oxygen.
October 21, 2008Manuel (age 31, Arizona) A tree grows and increases its mass. Why is this not a violation of the law of conservation? Because there are several ways in which the tree gains energy that then is converted to mass. Most importantly, there is the Photosynthesis, the process by which autotrophs (self-feeders) convert water, carbon dioxide, and solar energy into sugars and oxygen. It is a complex chemical process by which plants and other autotrophs create the energy needed for life. The water and mineral are absorbed through the roots, and the solar energy through the leaves.
March 11, 2008Jib (age 13, Ohio/United stayes) What do animals need nitrogen for? All plants and animals need nitrogen to make amino acids.
July 6, 2007Jojo (age 13, WI) How do Tsunamis affect Plants?
Respond ASAP!!!!!
Tsunamis can be a very aggressive natural phenomenon. Both fauna and flora suffer when the waves reach inland. Trees can be uprooted by the waves, salty water can also damage them, sediments could have many effects, etc. For a more extensive description, visit the United Nations webpage Impact of Tsunamis on Ecosystems.
November 30, 2006Marissa (age 15, Florida) What are some examples (organisms) of Autotrophs? Examples of autotrophs are plants and algae. More information about autotrophs is available at our page Autotrophs
June 27, 2002 Amir (age 14, Singapore) Why is a leaf green? A leaf is green because it's a part of a plant and plants have special cells! Their cells contain green stuff called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll(located within the chloroplast part of a plant cell) is what lets a plant get its energy from the sun through photosynthesis. We humans get our energy from food, but most plants don't need to eat food like we do, their chloroplasts use the sun's energy to make a special sort of food within their cells.
June 26, 2000 Ryan (age 16, California, USA ) Do trees affect the temperature of the earth?

Probably not enough to measure. Although trees themselves fluctuate in temperature according to the weather, very little if any heat is transferred to the ground by the trees themselves.

June 15, 2000 Andjie (age 9, Washington, USA ) What is transpiration process on water cycle? When plants give off water, we call that transpiration. Water is absorbed by a plant's roots. The water moves through the plant and can actually come out of the plant through tiny pores on the underside of the plant's leaves. Transpiration is a small part of the water cycle compared to say evaporation of water from the oceans.
June 1, 1999 Sunday (age 16, Michigan, USA) How is it that the sun can give people energy? The sun can give people energy in a couple ways. When sunshine warms your body it is giving you some heat energy through radiation. The most important way the sun gives us energy is through the food we eat. Plants can convert the suns energy into food for itself, which we can eat. In fact, all the food we eat relies somehow on the sun. Kinda makes me hungry.
April 23, 1999 Bill (age 51, Tennessee, USA) Is it true that a seed before planting is truly dead or is there a sign of life in it? In order for seeds to sprout, they must be alive, even though they look dead. The seeds you plant which never sprout are really dead.
March 14, 1999 Alexis (age 9) Is it possible to grow plants in space? Are there any plans to grow plants on the International Space Station? Without gravity, how will the plants know which way to grow up? Experiments have been done which show it is possible to grow plants in space. Since there is very little gravity in space, the plants grow in any and every direction. The ISS will have a Plant Research Unit on board which will maintain small plants for different experiments.
March 17, 1998 Brad (age 15, Ohio, USA) What roles can plants play in recovering carbon dioxide, water, and other nutrients from the waste products generated in an Advance Life Support environment? Plants play a big role in recycling carbonates, nitrates, phosphates, and other salts, even from waste products which might be generated in a Life Support environment. Plants extract certain forms of nitrogen from soils, and plants recycle certain forms of carbon in the respiration/transpiration process.

Last modified October 14, 2003 by Jennifer Bergman.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:


Transpiration is the process by which plants return water to the atmosphere. After absorbing water from the ground, plants release water through their leaves. Transpiration helps plants stay cool, in...more

Earth's Water Cycle

Water is always on the move. Rain falling where you live may have been water in the ocean just days before. And the water you see in a river or stream may have been snow on a high mountaintop. Water can...more

What are the retrograde motions of planets in the sky?

It depends on which type of motion you are asking about. If you take a birds-eye view from the top of the solar system all the planets orbit around the Sun in a counter-clockwise (or direct) direction....more

How do Astronauts Live in Space?

Almost everyone has a question or two about living in space. What do astronauts do in space? How do they do everyday things like eat, sleep and go to the bathroom? It's important to note that astronauts...more

How far is the Earth from the Sun, the Moon and all the other planets? How far are all of the planets from the Sun? Do you know of a software that tracks the planets in real-time?

There is a really neat internet program called Solar System Live that shows the position of all of the planets and the Sun for any given day. If you go to that page, you'll see an image similar to the...more

Is it really true that man never really walked on the Moon?

The picture of the American Flag (the one put there by the Apollo astronauts) is waving (or straight out) in the wind. How could that be possible if there is no atmosphere on the Moon? Was it some sort...more

How many planets orbit the sun?

I was wondering if there is a new planet? Are there planets (a tenth planet?) after Pluto belonging to our solar system? What are the names of the new planets discovered in the solar system? Are there...more

According to Stephen Hawking, any object with an energy which equals Plank's energy has to become a black hole.

If that is so, the energy released during the Big Bang must have created many such black holes. Therefore most of the Energy of the Big bang must have disappeared in that form. Then how did the Universe...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA