Virtual microscope: maple leaf skeleton
Found in: Virtual Microscope


This is a scan of maple leaf vascular tissue, done with a normal flat-bed scanner.

Method: Preparing the leaf was the difficult and time-consuming part. The leaf was boiled for several hours until the cells started to separate. I then carefully lifted the leaf out of the pot and placed it on a plate with water. The soft tissue was then removed with a stiff brush, trying not to damage the delicate veins. The veins were then rinsed in alcohol to remove the remaining chlorophyll, washed in water to remove the alcohol. The alcohol also shrinks the structures, but it will expand again when washed in water. The leaf skeleton was then, pressed and dried. Not all leaves work equally well! The leaves of some plant species are so stiff that the cells do not want to come off when boiled. Don’t waste your time on these leaves.

A confession: Because the stem of the leaves come off very easily, I had to scan it separately and then integrate it into the picture later using some photo editing. I could not scan the veins and the stem at the same time, because it then would not be flat on the scanner. You will also notice that some parts of the leaf are not in focus. This too is because the leaf was not completely flat on the scanner.

For teachers and parents: Boil some leaves with your students/children and let them prepare the leaf skeleton. Then observe the leaf skeleton under the stereo microscope.


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