In a plant cell, there is a structure (called the chloroplast) that contains chlorophyll, a pigment that makes the leaves green. When the leaves absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide, chlorophyll converts it into energy to be used by the plant, a process called photosynthesis.
Aside from helping plants, leaves also help humans by keeping you cool on hot days by making shade. The leaves fill in the spaces between the branches to make a canopy--sort of like an umbrella--over the tree. Leaves also help make trees good homes for animals, like birds, squirrels, and bugs, by providing them shelter, a place to hide, and even food! The shape of a leaf will also allow you to identify the plant to see if it’s safe to eat or not.
Anatomy and Shapes of Leaves
The body of a leaf consists of a flattened portion, called the blade, that is attached to the plant by a structure called the petiole.
If you’ve found and collected some interesting leaves, you may want to preserve them or put them on display. In this activity, you’ll learn how to press leaves with wax paper so you can keep them for a long time!
-A thin towel or paper
-An iron and and ironing board
Step One: place a leaf between two pieces of wax paper, and put a towel/piece of thick paper over the wax.
Step Two: press on the towel or paper with a warm iron to seal the wax sheets together. Take care not to burn yourself and get an adult’s help if needed. This takes about 2-5 minutes on each side, depending on how moist the leaf is. Once you have finished one side, flip the leaf over and do the other side.
Step Three: cut around the leaf, leaving a small margin of wax paper to ensure that it will stay sealed. If you don’t want to cut out the leaves, you can try to peel the wax paper off the leaves, leaving a coat of wax behind to protect the leaves. Try this on one leaf first to see if this method works for you.
If you want to frame the leaves, you can place a few dots of glue on the underside of your pressed leaf and secure it to a piece of paper that will fit inside a frame of your choice. Let the glue dry for about 20 minutes before you put the frame together. Now you can keep many interesting leaves for a long time, and even display them on a wall!
Examples of some common leaves you may find:
Stachowiak, Kai. “Leaves”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 5/20/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Nyren, Erin (2013). “Photosynthesis”. Property of Discovery Express Kids, LLC.
Nyren, Erin (2017). “Blade and Petiole”. Property of Discovery Express Kids, LLC.
Superior National Forest. “Trillium Cernuum”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 5/20/17 from commons.wikimedia.org
Nyren, Erin (2017). “Simple vs. Compound Leaves”. Property of Discovery Express Kids, LLC.
“Leaf Morphology”. Released into the public domain under the GNU Free Documentation License. Uploaded on 5/21/17 from commons.wikimedia.org
Kratochvil, Petr. “Red Oak Leaf”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 5/21/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Kaufman, Sidney (2017). "Bush Leaves".
Hodan, George. "Summer Leaf". Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 5/26/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Kratochvil, Petr. "Autumn Leaf". Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 5/26/17 from publicdomainpictures.net