Time-lapse seed germination: Part I

A project designed to capture the fascinating process of seed germination.

While most people have a functional understanding of what seed germination is, few people are curious enough about the topic to dig into the nitty-gritty details of how the process actually works. This project, on its face, aims to provoke such a sense of curiosity in a process that people have previously taken for granted.

Plant Blindness

Too often, plants are overlooked by people, and generally perceived as nothing more than a backdrop for the animal world. This phenomenon has become known as "plant blindness", a problem that is likely to be addressed by multiple CTS projects going forward.

Human brains are wired to ascribe greater importance to objects that stand out to us. The seemingly static nature of plants often makes this difficult. Even when we are surrounded by plants, we rarely take the time to consciously acknowledge them. And while aspects of plant blindness may themselves be natural (e.g. minimal evolutionary consequence of ignoring plants), they can also be easily overcome.

Cultivating Interest

Time lapse setupIn the case of germination, the process would quickly become boring to watch in real-time given the speed at which it occurs. Using time-lapse photography, we can solve this problem rather easily. Several days can be condensed into just a few minutes, allowing people the opportunity to see into a world they've never noticed before.

To achieve this, we will be using a DSLR camera controlled programmatically with the help of an inexpensive computer called a Raspberry Pi. The images will be stitched together into a short video that hopefully even those without any prior interest in plant life will think is pretty neat to watch.

In the next blog post, we'll explain the technical details of the project for those who care to replicate it either in a classroom setting or for themselves.

Part II Now Available

You can now see the final results of this project and read about the technical details in part two of this project series.


Botanical Society of America. (2001). Toward a Theory of Plant Blindness. Plant Science Bulletin, 47(1), 2-9.