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Home / Science projects / Preserving Leaves
  • Preserving Leaves

    Preserving Leaves

    There are several ways to preserve those beautiful autumn leaves in your yard; here are directions for three popular ones. You'll need up to a week to use these different preserving methods. Adult supervision recommended.

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    Glycerin Method

    One method is to put them into a glycerin/water solution. This will preserve your leaves yet leave them relatively flexible. This preserving method works because the natural moisture present in the leaves is replaced by the glycerin solution, maintaining the leaf's texture and form.

    What You Need:

    • Glycerin
    • Water
    • Flat pan or disposable plates
    • A weight or something to keep leaves submerged
    • Leaves

    What You Do:

    1. Mix the glycerin and water so that it is one part glycerin and two parts water. You only need enough to submerge the leaves - about one cup.
    2. Pour the solution into a flat pan, place the leaves in the solution, and then put the weight on the leaves to keep them submerged. (Tip: try using two Styrofoam or other disposable plates. Put leaves and enough glycerin solution to just lightly cover the leaves in the bottom of one plate. Then put the other plate on top of the leaves and solution. Now you can put a weight of your choosing on the top plate without getting the weight in the solution.)
    3. Keep the leaves submerged in the solution for 2-6 days.
    4. Dry the leaves gently with a paper towel. They should feel soft and pliable.

    Wax Paper Pressing Method

    One of the most common ways to preserve leaves is by pressing them between wax paper.

    What You Need:

    • Leaves
    • Wax paper
    • Thin towel or paper
    • Iron
    • Ironing board

    What You Do:

    1. Place a leaf between two pieces of wax paper.
    2. Put a towel or a piece of thick paper over the wax paper.
    3. Press on the towel or paper with a warm iron to seal the wax sheets together. 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.
    4. Cut around the leaf, leaving a small margin of wax paper to ensure that it will stay sealed.
    5. Rather than cutting out the leaves, you may want to 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.

    Microwave Method

    Thanks to everyday technology, there is another way to preserve autumn leaves. This method requires using a microwave.

    What You Need:

    • Fresh leaves that have not dried out
    • Paper towels
    • Microwave
    • Acrylic spray from a craft store

    What You Do:

    1. Arrange the leaves on top of two paper towels. Lay another towel over the leaves to cover them.
    2. Microwave the leaves for 30-180 seconds. Be very attentive and careful. Leaves that are cooked in the microwave too long can catch fire. The drier the leaves, the less time they will need. Leaves that curl after removal from the microwave have not been in long enough. Leaves that are scorched have been in there too long. Only dry them for a few seconds at a time.
    3. Let the leaves sit for a day or two and then finish by spraying an acrylic sealant on both sides of the leaves.

    Compare the texture and color of the leaves after using the different preserving methods. Did one method work well for a particular tree species, but another method work better for a different tree species? What do you conclude about what happens to the leaves during the different preserving processes? If you'd like, use a tree identification guide for help identify the leaves of different species.

    Additional Information

    see the colors in a leaf

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