Fast Plants (Melissa Savage)

Research Question and Hypothesis

How are single gene traits of fast plants passed from parent to offspring? What is the probability of passing on their traits to their offspring?


3. A multicellular organism develops from a single zygote, and its phenotype depends on its genotype, which is established at fertilization. As a basis for understanding this concept:
Students know how to predict the probable outcome of phenotypes in a genetic cross from the genotypes of the parents and mode of inheritance (autosomal or X-linked, dominant or recessive).


Students know the genetic basis for Mendel’s laws of segregation and independent assortment.


Students know how to predict the probable mode of inheritance from a pedigree diagram showing phenotypes.

Experimental Design 

Genetic Variations


If you have grown Fast Plants® you will have noticed variation among the individual plants within the group. Variation can range from a little to a lot. This article is designed to help teachers and students understand the basis of the variation they observe in their plantings.

Variation is one of the fundamental characteristics of life. All organisms exhibit some variation among individuals. Understanding the ways that variation is manifested in organisms, how it comes to be expressed through the development of the individual, and how it is transmitted from one individual to the next generation of individuals are central themes in biology.

Working with Fast Plants® will enrich a student's understanding of variation. By observing the growth and development of a Fast Plants® through the various stages in the life cycle, students will become aware of many visible features, or phenotypes, that make up the organism.

Only, however, upon close observation of a population of plants, will they become aware that the characteristics observed on one plant vary more or less on other plants. Such is the nature of variation.

Phenotypic Variation

Phenotypic variation, e.g. plant height at a particular stage of development, is considered to be the expression of the genetic makeup (genotype) of the individual as it interacts with the environment. Variation in plant height among individuals in a population is therefore due to variation in the interaction between the genotype and the environment, as expressed through the development of each individual plant.

The interrelationships suggested in Figure 1 should provide students with numerous ideas for experimentation to probe the basis for the variation observed among their individual Fast Plants®.

Describing and Observing Phenotypic Variation

In order to be useful in an experiment the phenotype must be described using terms that are widely understood and easily communicated. For these reasons scientists have agreed upon various standards or descriptors to describe characteristics in the natural world. Descriptors take many forms, see WFPID Observing and Describing. The choice of how to describe what you observe is important, because it will determine the kinds of descriptors used and establish the basis for recording, analyzing and communicating results.

Environmental Variation

Much can be learned about the role of light, temperature, and nutrients on plant development from experiments in which one or more environmental parameters are changed. Because Fast Plants® are highly responsive to changes in the environment, they are ideal for examining the role of the environment on the expression of phenotypic variation.

Although Fast Plants® are able to grow within a wide range of environmental conditions, for most investigations it is recommended that they be grown under uniform and ideal conditions. In this way variation arising from sub-optimal conditions of environment will be minimized. The Wisconsin Fast Plants® Information Document (WFPID) Understanding the Environment describes how to provide and maintain the various physical, chemical and biotic components of the environment that are most suitable for Fast Plants®.

Genotypic Variation

How can students use Fast Plants® to investigate the contribution of the genotype to the phenotype? Fast Plants®, rapid cycling Brassica rapa, are genotypically variable in that they have a genetically controlled mating system that prevents self-fertilization and favors out-crossing among individuals. As a consequence, even seed stocks selected for uniformity of specific phenotypes and genotypes exhibit considerable variation for other traits.

The Wisconsin Fast Plants® Program has developed a number of genetic stocks of rapid cycling Brassica rapa for genetic investigations on the nature and inheritance of variation. Some WFP stocks contain distinctive mutant phenotypes, e.g., anthocyaninless plant, anl, yellow green plant, ygr1, rosette, ros, and male sterile, mst2, that are suitable for Mendelian genetics.

Other stocks exhibit phenotypes whose expression may vary continually and which may be quantified as discrete or countable units, e.g., number of hairs, or as estimates of size, e.g. petite dwarf, dwf1, or of intensity of color saturation, e.g., purple anthocyanin. These quantitative phenotypes may be conditioned by a few or many genes and normally require numerical descriptions in which the statistical notations of population size, (n), range (r), arithmetic mean (x), and standard deviation (s) are applied.

Yet other stocks have been developed to combine both simply inherited mutant genotypes and quantitatively expressed phenotypes. An important part of WFP is the continuing development and improvement of seed stocks for uses in genetics.

Independent variable

The Genetic Crossing: artificial selection

Dependent variables

The Phenotype of the plant


Will be observing the ratio of monohybrid phenotypes of plants when articicially selecting the genetic crosses of the plants.


Wisconsin Fast Plants™ seeds

- Seeds of two generations are incl:

wild-type RCBr seeds (P

1) (non-purple stem,green, standard)mutant-type seeds (P2) (purple stem [anl/anl],

yellow-green [ygr/ygr], or rosette [ros/ros])

1 non-purple stem, yellow-green leaf growing systems  


Provide a clear, concise list of procedures to be followed. 

Photos & Movies

How fast are fast plants?

How to Pollinate Fast Plants



Melissa Savage,
Nov 15, 2011, 3:12 PM
Melissa Savage,
Nov 15, 2011, 3:03 PM
Melissa Savage,
Nov 15, 2011, 3:03 PM
Melissa Savage,
Nov 15, 2011, 3:03 PM