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December 15, 1997

Poinsettias and Christmas trees help to make our homes beautiful during the holidays. But plants do much more than just add to our festive decorations. They are essential to the survival of all life on Earth. Plants provide the oxygen that we breathe. In fact, scientists call the rain forests the "lungs of the Earth." Plants are also a vital part of the food chain and a source of everything from building materials to medicines. To learn more about plants, use the direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.


Why Do Plants Have Flowers? Find out how plants pollinate and produce flowers. Take a close look at the inside of a flower and learn the name and function of each part.

Kids Valley Webgarden: A great resource for the beginning gardener. Learn how to plant a garden from seeds and keep your plants healthy. Includes tips on growing flowers, vegetables, herbs and shrubs, as well as advice on how to enter garden competitions.

Student Projects in the Tree Gallery: Do you know about the trees that grow in your neighborhood? Find out what other children from around the world think about the trees where they live by reading their poems and essays and looking at their photos and illustrations.


Seeds of Change Garden: Pumpkins, tomatoes and chili peppers were just a few of the plants brand-new to the Old World explorers sailing to America. Discover how trade routes affected the history of food crops and how that trade doubled the available food resources for people on both sides of the Atlantic. Also learn activities to do all year round in your garden.

Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall? Different colors of leaves indicate specific processes within the leaf. Learn how plants grow through the process of photosynthesis and how less sunlight means less green-causing chlorophyll and more red, orange and yellow leaves.

Plant Plaza: Discover which plants attract butterflies. Also, take a virtual walking tour of the wide range of unusual plants on the University of Arizona's Tucson campus.


USDA PLANTS National Database: Did you know that poinsettias are perennial woody shrubs? This site contains a database that helps you find different types of plants by scientific name, common name or by state where they grow. The photo gallery displays a variety of plants and includes such details as growth habits and economic importance.

Plant, Botany and Horticulture Questions: How much energy can seeds store? What is the strongest plant fiber? What is the difference between fruits and vegetables? Find out the answers to those and many other questions. pub/ScienceNet/database/Biology/ Lists/plant table.html

The Mad Scientist Network--Botany: Use this searchable database to find such facts as what is in soil that helps plants grow and why plants grow better with fluorescent light than incandescent.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This week's column was designed by Lauren Trinh, David Shun, Farrah Leal, Stan Woo-Sam and Anna Manring.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

Are seeds alive before you plant them?

Clue: See the Mad Scientist Network--Botany (Jan.-March '97 Archive)

Tell Us What You Want To Know

Got a paper or project coming up? Just curious about something? Send us a topic, and we'll consider it for a future Launch Point column. Write to us at The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. E-mail us at or leave a phone message at (714) 966-4550.

Answer to last week's Quest:

The word "Kwanzaa" means "first fruits of the harvest."

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