The Science of Autumn Leaves

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The Autumn season brings many changes, and possibly none is more anticipated than the spectacular changes in the foliage.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what causes the leaves to change during the fall?  Is it the cold weather? The shortened days? And why do leaves change color anyway?  What is the biological purpose of leaves changing color from the green of spring and summer to the vibrant golds, oranges, and reds of fall?

 

In this module, we will explore the science of Autumn leaves.  Students will be introduced to basic leaf anatomy and learn the role pigments play in the life of trees and plants.  Additionally, several optional experiments are included. Students will learn how to use paper chromatography to detect the different pigments present in leaves. They will then use this technique to detect pigment changes that occur as leaves change color during the fall. Additionally, students will learn how to use microscopy to detect leaf stomata.

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