A-level set practicals – dissection and microscopy of a plant stem


This resource supports the use of practicals across various A-level biology 2015 specifications for England (OCR, AQA, Edexcel and Eduqas).

This experiment allows students to go from the plant on the desk, to observing a stained specimen under the microscope in less than 4 minutes (as shown in the image above). The viewed specimen clearly shows the location of vascular bundles and the xylem, phloem and sclerenchyma or collenchyma.

The use of the stain toluidine blue provides a colour difference between lignified and non-lignified cell walls, clearly highlighting specialised cells and one adaptation they have.

This experiment provides a quick and eye-catching way to teach about the vascular tissue in plants and the structure of plant stems. It provides students with the opportunity to develop (and demonstrate) their scientific drawing skills as well as their use of a light microscope and eye-piece graticule.

Materials include:

  • Tested materials to support the A-level practical endorsement (CPAC)
  • Support materials for teachers and technicians
  • Student worksheet to help provide evidence for meeting the practical skills requirements
  • Student revision materials to help prepare for exams

Support materials for other key practicals in A-level specifications can be found in the A-level set practicals collection.

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