Think About It Thursday….


   Why Do Leaves Fall Off Trees?

During that process, the trees lose a lot of water – so much water that when winter arrives, the trees are no longer able to get enough water to replace it.

And so now we know. Leaves fall—or are pushed—off trees so that the tree can survive the winter and grow new leaves in the spring

Make sure you check out HTHT’s Experiment page, but especially check out the science experiment, Binocular Build & Scavenger Hunt!

You could build a binocular, then go on a scavenger hunt to find all the different color leaves!

Happy Hunting!


Source: Pixabay Images

Think About it Thursday-Hurricanes!

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a huge tropical storm! It can be hundreds of miles across and have strong winds spiraling inward and upward at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. Recent Category 5 hurricanes include 2005-Katrina (175 mph), 2005-Rita (180 mph), 2005-Wilma (185 mph), 2007-Dean (175 mph), 2007-Felix (175 mph), 2017-Maria (175 mph), 2017-Irma (175 mph).

What makes a hurricane special is that it rotates around the “eye” of the storm, which is the calmest part.  Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere. You need three things for a hurricane to form: warm water, cooler air, and wind.

Typically, hurricanes form over warm ocean waters of at least 80°F. That combined with the cooler atmosphere (the air) of early Fall sets things up for a hurricane. Add into that, wind that’s blowing in the same direction and at the same speed, forcing air upward from the ocean surface. The winds flow outward above the storm allowing the air below to rise. Hurricanes typically form between 5 to 15 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. The Coriolis Force gives hurricanes that special spin you see! Atlantic hurricanes typically occur between June and November.

How are Hurricanes Classified?

Hurricanes are classified into five categories, based on their wind speeds and potential to cause damage.

Category 1: Winds 75-95 mph with minimal damage

Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph with moderate damage

Category 3: Winds 111-130 mph with extensive damage

Category 4: Winds 131-155 mph with extreme damage

Category 5: Winds 155+ mph with catastrophic damage

Sometimes a hurricane will start with a high classification of Category 5 but then drop once it hits land. Once a hurricane hits land it loses strength i.e. decreases in category because of cool temperatures, a lack of moisture, and/or friction. Moisture is what fuels a hurricane!

What are some the most damaging hurricanes in US history?

1. Katrina, 2005
Damage: $160.00 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 110 mph in August, 2005

2. Harvey, 2017
Damage: $125.00 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph in August, 2017

3. Sandy, 2012
Damage: $70.20 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in October, 2012

4. Irma, 2017
Damage: $50.00 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 155 mph in September, 2017

5. Andrew, 1992

    Damage: $47.79 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 145 mph in August, 1992

6. Ike, 2008
Damage: $34.80 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph in September, 2008

How to Prepare for a Hurricane?

1. Plan your evacuation route.

2. Keep non-perishable emergency supplies on hand.

3. Take an inventory of your personal property.

4. Take steps to protect your home.




What’s That Smell?


What’s that Smell?

A stinky smell usually means something is wrong – food’s gone bad, something is dead, someone needs a bath. Yet in the plant world, a stinky smell can be a good thing.  Smelling super gross helps certain plants spread their pollen and seeds, which successfully creates the next generation for their species.

What is pollination and pollinators? How do plants attract them?

Pollination is the process by which a plant produces more plants for the next generation via the transfer of pollen.  Plants produce flowers specifically, so they can spread pollen, create seeds, and grow more plants!  Pollinators play a key role in the plant lifecycle. Some common pollinators include: bees and wasps, bats, moths and butterflies, hummingbirds, and flies and beetles.

Over time some plants have evolved attributes whose sole purpose is attracting a specific type of pollinator.  For instance, some plants have white, fragrant flowers that attract bats and moths at night. Other plants have bright red tube-like flowers that attract hummingbirds. Some flowers even have special patterns that show up in UV light that guide bees and butterflies straight to them.

Strangest of all are the plants that mimic raw meat and smell like dead flesh!  These are particularly attractive to some flies and beetles.

Mimicking Decomposition

What is super gross to you and me is absolutely delicious to these insects.  Their primary role in the ecosystem is to help break down dead things into usable nutrients for living things.  Think of decomposition like recycling; old material gets broken down to create the new.  In exchange for getting this dirty job done, the bugs get food and a safe place to lay their eggs.

Plants are very much a part of the living ecosystem, but some plants tap into decomposition to further their species.  By mimicking dead things, their flowers attract flies and beetles as their pollinators. Some even produce stinky fruit to attract animals to disperse their seeds.

When scientists analyzed the stinky stench of some of these flowers, they found the chemicals dimethyl trisulfide (like stinky limburger cheese), dimethyl disulfide, trimethylamine (rotting fish), isovaleric acid (sweaty socks), benzyl alcohol (sweet floral scent), phenol (like Chloraseptic), and indole (like feces).  That is quite a noseful!


Here are some different types of stinky plants:

Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum): Native to the rainforests in Sumatra and Indonesia, corpse flowers draw huge crowds when they are featured at botanical gardens.  People will come from all around to watch the stinky bloom open!

The blooms on this plant are rare, but huge! They often take 7-10 years to produce a single bloom and it has the tallest inflorescence in the world – 10 ft tall!  An inflorescence is a collection of thousands of tiny flowers that together look like a giant flower.  The bloom has a dark red color, which mimic the color and texture of rotting flesh, and has a smell to match! That dead rotten smell attracts flies and beetles, who enter the bloom and pollinate it!


Stinking Corpse lily(Rafflesia arnoldii): Another native of the rainforests of Sumatra and Indonesia, the corpse lily is a parasitic plant.  It has no stem, leaves, or roots, but lives inside vines of the genus Tetrastigma.   Its thread-like fibers spread throughout the vines and gather nutrients from its host.

This makes the corpse lily and its flower hard to find because it is only visible when it breaks out of its host to create a bloom.  It starts with a tiny bud on the outside of the vine and over the course of a year a massive flower is produced, which only blooms for a few days. It has the largest individual bloom with the largest one ever recorded at 17 inches in diameter. Its blooms resemble rotting flesh in color and smell and attract beetles and flies.  Once pollinated it creates little round fruits that are consumed by tree shrews thus spreading the seeds.

Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri):  It is a type of fungus meaning it reproduces via spores rather than seeds.  This weird looking species proves that even fungi can stink!  This fungus is native to New Zealand and Australia but has traveled the globe and can even be found in California.

When its egg-like sacs rupture, red, tentacle-like fronds emerge that smell strongly of rotting flesh or crabs.  It looks a little like an alien octopus hatching out of the ground!  The smell and appearance attract flies which pick up spores and spread the fungus.


Durian Trees

The fruit of this tree rather than the flowers is what stinks and seed dispersal is the stinky mission.  It is native to Southeast Asia and is banned from mass transit and hotels – you will even see “no durian” signs in cities in this part of the world.  There are many different species of durian tree, but universally the fruit they produce smells gross.  A stinky cousin of the cacao tree (aka chocolate), the durian tree produces big spiky fruit with a yellow, creamy, edible fruit inside. Even with the rind intact, the smell of rotting onions, sewage, stinky garbage and other sulfuric smells can reach your nose.  If you can get past the smell, it tastes amazing and is considered the king of fruits.

It smells so strongly to attract orangutans and other creatures to come and eat it, so the seeds can spread.  Think of the smell, like the tree shouting “Come and get my seeds!! Yummy taste inside – I promise!!”


Plants are all about the next generation, so spreading their pollen and seeds is a huge driving force in how they look, smell, and grow.  Producing a bloom or fruit takes a lot of energy and time so plants will do whatever is necessary to increase their success.  Even if it means smelling like a rotting corpse!

Resources: Pixabay