Learn About Plant Defenses for Kids

Animals have various ways to defend themselves. Skunks spray a stinky liquid at predators that try to attack them. Zebras run together in large groups to confuse predators. Prairie dogs run and hide in holes in the ground. Dogs bite. Like animals, plants often need to defend themselves as well. After all, many animals are herbivores or omnivores. Herbivores eat only plants and omnivores eat both plants and animals. Defenses like poison, thorns, prickles and stinging protect plants from the animals that would eat or damage them.

Thorns help protect a plant from being eaten
Thorns help protect a plant from being eaten

Thorns, Spines and Prickles

You wouldn't want to bite something that has thorns or prickles, right? It would hurt. Many plants have sharp defenses like thorns, prickles and spines that protect them from being eaten by animals. Hawthorn trees have sharp thorns all over their branches. Cactus plants have spines. Rose bushes haves prickles.

The sting from a nettle plant is very painful
The sting from a nettle plant is very painful

Stinging Plants

Stinging plants like nettles have hairs with tubes that are filled with a stinging liquid. The tubes are delicate and break if touched. If an animal touches the plant, the tube breaks and the stinging fluid is injected into its skin. Stinging plants often have hundreds of these hairs that cover the leaves and stem. The chemicals in the stinging liquid can cause skin to become inflamed and irritated.

The 10 Most Common Poisonous Plants

These are the 10 most common poisonous plants according to Livescience.com:

  • Wisteria
  • Foxglove
  • Hydrangea
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Anthurium
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Oleander
  • Ficus
  • Rhododendron
  • Narcissus

Poisonous Plants

Eating a poisonous plant can cause sickness or even kill. Eating just one leaf from a deadly nightshade plant can cause death. Every part of the plant is poisonous. The berries on a deadly nightshade plant look like edible berries and they even taste sweet. But they're so deadly just 2 to 4 berries could kill a child and 10 to 20 could kill an adult.

When the Greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death for his beliefs the court gave him the right to pick how he would die. He choose tea made from the poisonous hemlock plant. Hemlock kills by causing stomach pains, vomiting, paralysis and suffocation.

The painting The Death of Socrates by Jean Francois Pierre Peyron shows the Greek philosopher as he's about to drink hemlock tea
The painting The Death of Socrates by Jean Francois Pierre Peyron shows the Greek philosopher as he's about to drink hemlock tea
Bark protects soft tissue on a tree's trunk. If too much bark is removed the tree will die.
Bark protects soft tissue on a tree's trunk. If too much bark is removed the tree will die.

Rigid Cell Walls and Bark

Plants don't just need protection from animals. They also need protection from bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause disease. A plant's cell wall is strong and makes it difficult for pathogens (germs that can cause disease) to get inside.

Bark on trees serves the same purpose as human skin. It’s a protective outer layer. Bark helps to protect the cambium (layer underneath the bark) from damage caused by insects, weather, animals, and disease causing organisms. A tree can survive if some of its bark is stripped off. But if too much is removed, the tree will die.

Bill Nye The Science Guy - Plants

More by this Author


Comments 5 comments

sheilamarie78 profile image

sheilamarie78 22 months ago

Nice approach on teaching kids about plants. Useful information.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

A fascinating overview of the defenses of plant life.


frozenink profile image

frozenink 20 months ago

This is really a useful Hub for educating children. I like the inclusion of Bill Nye, but i think the video has already been removed.


JoanCA profile image

JoanCA 19 months ago Author

Thanks frozenink. I found another version of the video.


frozenink profile image

frozenink 19 months ago

NICE! =D

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working