Darrin Rubino, associate professor of biology at Hanover College, gives students a close-up view of one of the plant specimens he brought for the botanical show-and-tell at Southwestern Elementary School on Tuesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Darrin Rubino, associate professor of biology at Hanover College, gives students a close-up view of one of the plant specimens he brought for the botanical show-and-tell at Southwestern Elementary School on Tuesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Third-grade students in Jodi Pflaumer's class leaned in around Darrin Rubino, a botanist and Hanover College professor, as he pulled plant after plant out of a green tub he had placed on the floor.

"This is a Mexican hat plant," Rubino told the students.

The plant has seeds that grow all along the outside of its leaves that look like bugs.

"Those are seeds. So they actually make baby plants on their leaves so they fall off and infect every pot in the green house."

The students had just completed their science section on plants for the year.

Rubino spoke to the third-grade classrooms at Southwestern Elementary School on Tuesday, mostly about how different types of plants adapt to their environment to survive.

Plants, Rubino said, usually have roots, stems and leaves. But they adapt depending on their environment. He pulled a cactus plant from his bin next as an example. The spiky pins sticking out of it are actually its leaves that have adapted into a defense, he said.

"What if I told you these were here to keep it from becoming food," Rubino told the classroom.

He also had plants that look like rocks, create cups out of tightly woven leafs and don't have roots because they stick to existing plants.

Rubino usually makes presentations to students at Southwestern twice a year, once around their science lesson covering plants and a second time during career day.

"He's great," Pflaumer said. "I tell my students before he comes that I've never met anyone who loves plants more than Dr. Rubino."