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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre & Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS)'s online course, Teaching Biology: Inspiring Students with Plant Science. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds ALEX JENKIN: One plant that it’s very easy to take cuttings from is Tradescantia zebrina. You can buy this from most garden centres. To take a cutting, it’s important to take it from just below one of these nodes where a shoot or a leaf is coming off from the main stem. That’s where you’ll find the meristem tissue. So we’re just going to take a cutting from just below this node here. Just a couple or few millimetres below.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds And then we’re going to strip off this stem here– this shoot from the stem, and then take these leaves off as well. And we’ve included in the cutting a couple of nodes above the one that we cut below. And this is where we find– because this is where we find the meristem tissue. I’m then going to place this into a boiling tube of tap water, put it onto a sunny windowsill, and keep that topped up with water. And after about a week, you’ll start to see some roots growing from the nodes. And after two weeks, these will be growing longer.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds And again, after about a month, you’ll see even more growth of the roots from those nodes where you took the leaves and the shoots off. When those roots are a bit longer, they’ll be ready to put into some compost and grow on.

Taking cuttings

In this section, we will look at three practical activities that will support your students understanding of plant stem cells and enable them to make connections to other areas of the curriculum. As you watch them, add connections into your concept map

Cloning plants

Taking a cutting is the easiest way to produce a clone of a plant – that is, each plant is genetically identical to the parent plant. Plants are very easy to clone because, unlike animal cells, many plant cells are totipotent, meaning that each cell has the capacity to regenerate the entire plant. This fact lies at the foundation of all tissue culture work.

We’ll look at a specific example in the next step.


Make adjustments to your concept map to include any new ideas from this practical skill.

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Teaching Biology: Inspiring Students with Plant Science

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