Make a type of paper that will grow into a plant!

You will need

  • scrap paper (newspaper contains a lot of ink, which can stain your equipment. Use white paper if you’re concerned.)
  • blender or food processor
  • water
  • measuring cup
  • bucket
  • small embroidery frame between 15 and 20cm diameter
  • fly screen or cheese cloth
  • baking paper
  • paper towel
  • oven tray
  • oven
  • small seeds, such as cress or radish
  • scissors.

What to do

  1. Pour the wet paper into a blender or food processor and add several cups of water. Blend it into a thick pulp.
  2. Return the pulp to the bucket with the water. It should be fairly watery like a thick soup; if not, add more water.
  3. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius (or lower if possible).
  4. Clip the fly screen or cheese cloth into the embroidery frame and trim the edges to neaten it.
  5. Homemade paper with seeds in it

    Stir the watery pulp with your hand before pushing the frame under the surface.
  6. Lift the frame, sifting from the water a thin layer of paper pulp. Shake it gently from side to side to even it out.
  7. Sprinkle the packet of seeds over the pulp and use your finger to lightly press them in.
  8. Lay a sheet of baking paper onto the baking tray.
  9. Drain as much water from the pulp in your frame as you can. Turn the frame over onto the baking tray and tip the pulp onto it. Don’t worry if it’s a bit messy around the edges – you can always trim it once it's dried.
  10. Carefully press a folded paper towel onto the layer of pulp to mop up as much excess water as you can.
  11. Place the tray into the warm oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. Pay attention to make sure it doesn’t brown or burn. You want to dry the paper, not cook the seeds.
  12. Take it out and leave it to cool for about half an hour.
  13. Try to peel the drying pulp from the baking paper. Don’t worry if it’s still a little damp – it will dry soon enough.
  14. It might take a day or two to dry fully. Trim and decorate your new recycled card. Give it to a friend with the suggestion that they place it in a pot and water it to grow the seeds.

What's happening

Seeds are a plant's way of reproducing over a large area. There are many challenges to overcome in doing this, and different plants have come up with a variety of ways to solve such problems.

Acacia coriacea seed pods.  ©CSIRO, Maurice MacDonald

Like all organisms, plants need ample amounts of water to grow. Animals can always move to a place to drink, yet plants need to anchor themselves to the ground to absorb their nutrients.

To ensure there is enough water to sustain them as they develop, seeds only start to grow – or germinate – when their environment contains enough moisture. Until then, they can remain dormant for long periods, holding onto their small packet of nutrients for a time when they can be put to good use. The world record for the longest 'sleeping' seed is a 2000 year old Judean date palm, which was found in the ruins of Herod the Great's Masada palace in Israel and sprouted in 2005.

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