You call that a leaf?!

When you think of a plant leaf, most likely a normal green leaf shape comes to mind, but there are many kinds of modified leaves that probably wouldn’t come to your mind.  Certain plants like Poinsettias and Bougainvilleas set flowers that have no petals and nothing to really attract any pollinating insects.  The plant compensates for that by growing brightly colored leaves around the tiny ordinary flowers, thus inviting insects and birds alike.  Other plants disguise leaves as flowers for different reasons.  For instance, the flytrap on the Venus flytrap is actually a leaf. Not a flower…. or whatever you thought it was!  The layers that surround your onion bulb are leaves, while the stem is hidden at the very center of the bulb.  Spines on cactus are modified leaves the same as the needles on a conifer.  The spines prevent water loss and protect the plant from plant eating animals.  Some leaves have almost a fuzzy surface, like African Violets, to protect them from insects. Those hairs on the leaf may appear small to us, but are a huge obstacle for a plant-eating insect. Pineapples protect themselves by growing very sharp edged leaves that will cut you if you touch them the wrong way.  I still like Pineapples. Many Plants in the Rain Forest act as though they have water repellent on them.  The rain will not sit on the leaf, but rolls off as each droplet of water lands on it. If it didn’t, the plant would become so water logged and heavy that it would die during the rainy seasons.  I guess it shows how there is much more to the eye than just the leaves on the tree!

Cynthia Booth