God is in the Violets (August 8)

This fun science experiment began with a violet.

I admire the violets quite frequently. I sprinkled seeds along our front pathway, and have now found both these and a wild native version springing up all over the front yard, which I greatly encourage! Their tiny blossoms are strikingly beautiful, prettier-and-prettier the closer you look, and their heart-shaped leaves make the whole plant a study in gentle sweetness! I’ve collected blossoms a couple of times to sugar for cake decorations, but I began to wonder if there was anything else that people used to do with these sweet little blossoms.

And sure enough, I stumbled across the idea of making Violet Syrup here.

And in reading the directions, I discovered something even more interesting about violets – which is that they are a pH indicator! And so now, my harvesting project transformed into a science experiment!

And so I collected a handful of violets, and I covered them with boiling water. The liquid turned a beautiful shade of blue, and after sitting overnight, it was blue-green like a deep ocean.

Today, I pulled my Violet Syrup off of the shelf, and showed it to the kids. Over the course of the couple of days that had passed, the violet syrup was more pale, and something interesting had happened – a lavender layer had developed on top of the blue solution…

I described the syrup to the kids, and asked what might be causing this change in color. The pigments separated by sitting in the water, like a chromatograph? No….. A chemical reaction? Yes! But what kind? And so I explained that the purple dye from violets reacts to pH, like the pH testing strip that we use for making lye for soap. If the liquid is neutral, the Violet Syrup will be purple.

Since most of our mixture was blue, what would that mean about our water? Well, it would mean that it’s not neutral…But is it an acid or a base? Asher suggested that maybe we could add an acid to it, and see what color it turned. If adding acid made it purple, it must have been basic. If adding acid didn’t make it purple, it must have been acidic. Nice!

And so, we squeezed a lemon, and we held our breath, and I added a splash to our solution…

  • When you add lemon juice to violet syrup - it turns magenta!
  • When you add lemon juice to violet syrup - it turns magenta!

Magenta! Ooooohs and aaaaaahs followed, as we now had a solution blending from blue on the bottom, through violet, to magenta on top. So, the final verdict, is that blue indicates a base, purple is neutral, and magenta indicates an acid. It appears that our well water is slightly basic.

Time to add the rest!

So now, I’ll bottle this up and we’ll enjoy a lovely magenta Violet-Syrup soda one day! What fun! Next time, I hope to harvest an even bigger batch, and split it into three bottles, starting with a blue one, then adding a little lemon juice to the second one for purple, then a little more lemon juice for magenta. It may also change color over the days as it ferments a little bit, so that will be fun to watch. The kids want to make rock candy, and add lemon juice at different stages to have multi-colored crystals…The possibilities are endless!

And so, what is remarkable about this, really? What did it teach us about God, who created each of us, and each of these wonderful little violet blossoms?

First, God made the violets absolutely beautiful, brilliant in color and design, wonderfully symmetrical. He is a God Who creates beauty, Who creates color, Who integrates math into His creations.

Second, God created a world that relies on a complex pH mechanism that is highly sensitive and performs incredibly intricate functions in the interactions between living things and their environment. pH itself is something of a remarkable mystery. The sensitivity of our cells to pH level is so precise, and pH balance is so easily upset (as demonstrated by our solution, which changed in pH just while sitting on the shelf), you have to once again wonder how we manage to survive at all! And certainly we wouldn’t, if His hand were not constantly maintaining what He created…

And finally, this violet is proof of something even more amazing – God desires us to study His creation! He has not only made it beautiful, not only made it functionally wondrous, but has even provided us a tool that we can use to learn more about it!

He is a God Who calls us to study Him, Who encourages us to find Him, and Who graciously gives us the tools we need to discover Him! Happy science-ing!

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