University of Illinois Extension
Environmental Awareness: Knowing Your World

Acid Precipitation And Plants

Acid precipitation affects plants in many ways. This demonstration will show the direct effect of acid water on plant growth. The demonstration will take two weeks.


  • 4 cups or jars
  • distilled water
  • white vinegar
  • measuring cups
  • stirring spoon
  • 2 cuttings each of philodendron and begonia plants (one leaf and small amount of the stem)
  • notebook and pencil
  • ph paper

1. Pour 1 teaspoon of vinegar into 2 cups of distilled water, stir, and check the pH with pH paper. The pH of the mixture should be about 4. If it is below 4, add a small amount of baking soda (which is alkaline) and recheck. If it is above 4, add a drop of vinegar (which is acidic) and recheck.

2. Measure the pH of the distilled water. If it is above or below a pH of 7, use vinegar or baking soda to get it to 7.

3. Place one of the following labels on each cup: Neutral water philodendron; neutral water begonia, Acid water philodendron, and Acid water begonia.

4. Pour a cup of neutral distilled water into the cups labeled for neutral water.

5. Pour a cup of acid water into the cups labeled for acid water.

6. Put one philodendron cutting in each philodendron labeled cup.

7. Put one begonia cutting in each begonia labeled cup.

8. Set the cups somewhere that keep them undisturbed and with some sunlight.

9. Check the plants every two days, and add more acid or neutral water if needed.

10. After a week, compare the root growth of each plant. Record results.

11. Compare the roots again after two weeks. Record results. Discuss the differences.


En Español

Water Rich Water Poor Natural Resources - Can We Use Them Forever? Energy and Ecosystems - Use Some, Lose Some Acid Precipitation - Are Things Getting Better? Global Warming Nature's Response

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