Leaves do many things to help our environment function. They release oxygen into the atmosphere and absorb carbon dioxide. Leaves mix this carbon dioxide from the air with water and nutrients from the soil. They use the sun's energy to turn these ingredients into their food. Chlorophyll is a green pigment in leaves that acts as the energy converter. We call this process photosynthesis.
Watch Buds Turn to Leaves
On a hike with your parents or in the back yard, look for small branches that have buds starting to form. Clip them and bring them inside. Place them in a clean jar of water and place in a sunny spot in your house. In a week or two you will start to see leaves growing. Watch for the buds to change color as they leaf out and the chlorophyll in them builds up. Try several different types of plants to see the difference in how they grow. Take notes or make sketches in your nature notebook!
Leaves also release water into the air in a process called evapo-transpiration. This process makes up about 15% of all the water in the atmosphere. The moisture that is carried into the atmosphere from forests due to this process may end up in rain clouds, so plants help to make rain!
Do leaves make rain?
To observe that plants lose water to the air from their leaves, tie a plastic bag around a potted plant, making sure there is a tight seal around the stem. Water evaporating from tiny pores in the leaves will condense or form droplets inside of the bag after a day or two. Be sure to remove the bag once you have seen the droplets so your plant can get some fresh air.
This would be a great time to use your nature notebook to record your observations or draw a picture!
If you would like to share your findings with us or your friends, be sure to tag us @thirdhousenaturecenter and use #THNCvirtualnatureclub so we can see what you're doing!