Biology

The milkweed plant is a member of the Asclepiadaceae family (“Plant of the Week”). It originated in Europe, and it is a perennial (“Common Milkweed Herb…”). The common milkweed plant is one of the 115 species found in America (“Plant of the Week”). Milkweed is a tropical or arid land species (“Plant of the Week”).  It is often found in fields, waste places, and along the sides of roads (“Common Milkweed And…”). The milkweed plant can survive from 2 to 25 years in the wild, depending on weather conditions and the species (?). The milkweed plant grows to roughly five feet tall (“Plant of the Week”). It usually occurs in clusters of stout stems (“Plant of the Week”). The leaves are around six to eight inches long and two to four inches wide (“Plant of the Week”). The leaves or kind of thick with a visible midrib beneath (“Plant of the Week”). The upper surface of the leaf is a light to dark green color (“Plant of the Week”). The lower surface is a lighter color, can also be almost white at times (“Plant of the Week”). Broken leaves and stems of the milkweed plant emit a milky latex (“Plant of the Week”). The flowers on the plant begin in spherical cluster, also known as umbels, at the top of the milkweed plant (“Plant of the Week”). There are usually two to five clusters on each plant (“Plant of the Week”). The flowers are two centimeters long and one centimeter wide (“Plant of the Week”). They are greenish-pink to rosy pink to purplish-pink (“Plant of the Week”). They are very strongly and sweetly scented (“Plant of the Week”). The fruits, or pods, are about four inches long, puffed, and covered in little finger-like projections (“Plant of the Week”). The pods are green, but as they mature they become brown (“Plant of the Week”). When they are split open, there are fifty to one hundred seeds each with white, fluffy coma, or “parachute”, and it allows wind dispersal (“Plant of the Week”). Milkweed has a large history of medicinal uses (“Plant of the Week”). Milkweed can treat warts, ringworm, soften and remove gall and kidney stones, fevers, and other skin ailments (“Common Milkweed Herb…”). Photosynthesis means the use of sunlight to make organic compounds from carbon dioxide and water (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Organisms that can do this are called autotrophs (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). As long as sunlight is available, autotrophs have food (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Organisms that can’t make their own food must absorb food molecules from the autotrophs they eat, which is their fuel (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Energy is released from the eaten molecules and is used to perform life processes (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). The milkweed plant is autotrophic (“Asclepias Syriaca.”). It uses photosynthesis to produce food (“Asclepias Syriaca.”). The process of photosynthesis requires carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, water taken up by the roots from the ground, and energy from sunlight (“Asclepias Syriaca.”). Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that allows them to be photosynthetic, is also necessary for photosynthesis (“Asclepias Syriaca.”). The cells of photosynthetic organisms have chloroplasts, organelles that convert light energy into chemical energy (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Chloroplasts have inner and outer membranes (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Within the chloroplast, there are thylakoids (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Thylakoids are flat, thin-like sacs that contain molecules that absorb light energy for photosynthesis (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). During photosynthesis, electrons are used to make ATP molecules to store chemical energy (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). The first step of producing ATP is water splitting (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Excited electrons that leave chlorophyll are replaced by water electrons that are split, leaving H+ ions and oxygen atoms (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). They form O? and it is released into the atmosphere (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). The second step is the Hydrogen Ion Pump (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). H+ ions are pumped into the thylakoid by excited electrons, which creates a concentration gradient (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). The third step is ATP Synthase (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). H+ ion diffusion creates energy to make ATP (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). H+ ions function as an ion channel and as the enzyme ATP synthase (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). A phosphate group is added to a molecule of ADP resulting in ATP, which is used to power the final step of photosynthesis (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus).Producing NADPH is when one electron transport chain makes ATP, the other receives excited electrons from a chlorophyll molecule and makes NADPH (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). NADPH is an electron carrier that provides the high-energy electrons needed to store energy in organic molecules (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus). Both NADPH and the ATP made during the first stage of photosynthesis will be used to provide the energy to carry out the final stage of photosynthesis (DeSalle, Rob, and Michael R. Heithaus).

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