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Home / Science projects / Make a Leaf Skeleton
  • Make a Leaf Skeleton

    Make a Leaf Skeleton

    Remove leaf tissue to see a beautiful "skeleton" of veins! This project can be done with a variety of fresh leaves in the spring, summer, or fall. (Adult supervision recommended.)

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    What You Need:

    • Leaves (choose large leaves that are colorful, not dried out)
    • Sodium carbonate (washing soda)
    • Metal pot (not aluminum)
    • Forceps or tweezers
    • Paintbrush

    What You Do:

    1. Measure 4 ¼ teaspoons of sodium carbonate (or weigh out 20 g with a balance) into the pot.
    2. Dissolve the sodium carbonate in a half liter (a little more than 2 cups) of water.
    3. Heat the mixture on the stove. Ask an adult before doing this, and always be careful around kitchen stoves!
    4. When the mixture is almost to a boil and bubbles appear on the surface, take it off the heat, and put the leaves you have selected into the pot. Let them soak for 30 minutes.
    5. Remove each leaf carefully from the pot with the forceps. Gently wash the leaves with cool water. Use a paintbrush to carefully lift away the small bits of leaf cell remaining around the skeleton.

    What Happened:

    The part of the leaf you can see now is a complex pattern of hollow veins making up the leaf's skeleton.  A leaf's veining system provides food and water to the rest of its cells. Since the leaf is no longer getting the nutrients it needs from the ground through the stem of the plant or tree trunk, its tissue will break down easily. All that remains is the delicate system of veins that make a lacy pattern! Try framing your leaf skeleton, or using it to decorate a homemade card.

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By: Jane
Date: May 30, 2015

After boiling the washing soda solution is the pot safe to use for cooking?

[HST Adds:  Washing soda (sodium carbonate) can be used as a water softener in laundry and as a de-greaser or de-scaler for dishes.  Your pot may be cleaner than when you started the experiment.  Do not use an aluminum pot.  Be sure to rinse it well after!]