Educator Info: See the Colors in Leaves
We all know that leaves are green in the summer and turn other colors in the fall. But are green leaves only green? You’ll use a technique called chromatography to separate the pigments in different leaves and see what they’re made of.
Lesson at a glance
Explore the different kinds of pigments in leaves. How do the pigments in various leaves differ?
Students Will Know:
Leaf chromatography - The process of separating the pigments that color leaves
Students Will Be Able To:
Use the process of chromatography to separate leaf pigments
Illinois Learning Standards
State Goal 11: A.2a; A.2b; A.2e
State Goal 12: A.2a
Middle/Junior High School
State Goal 11: A.3a; A.3b; A.3f
Before doing the activity, ask your students to predict what pigments can be found in each of the leaves. What pigments will green leaves contain? What about red leaves, or yellow leaves?
Plant pigments play an important role in capturing light for photosynthesis. These pigments give leaves their colors. Chlorophyll pigment makes leaves green and allows the plant to capture energy from the sun for photosynthesis. Anthocyanins make leaves red. Carotenoids make leaves yellow.
In the fall, trees prepare for winter by shutting down photosynthesis. As this happens, the chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As this happens, the green color fades and we begin to see yellow and orange – colors that have been there all along, but were hidden by the green pigment. Sugars trapped inside the leaves react with light and other chemicals to reveal new colors.
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