This photo, taken from our new dissecting microscope funded by TDFEF, shows the veins of a decaying leaf, also called a leaf skeleton. The veins not only transport material (water, food, minerals) to and from the leaf cells, but also provide structural support to the leaf.
Why can we find leaves on the ground with only veins remaining? The veins are composed of lignin, a rigid compound that is resistant to decomposition. Lignin is also present in wood. Only certain fungus species can decay lignin; therefore, the structure of the veins stays intact longer than the rest of the leaf. Also, some plants contain more lignin than others. For example, this English holly leaf, an invasive species in Stanley Park, takes longer to decompose than a plant with less lignin like a maple leaf.
During their “Art in Nature” session, SPES’ EcoCampers collected this leaf while looking for beautiful patterns in nature.
– By Ariane Comeau, SPES Environmental Educator