Why are leaves green, Mummy?

We spend a lot of time in the bush – we love walking the trails! There’s just something about being surrounded by all that green that calms and restores both me and my bouncing son.

I love asking Nate questions about what is going on around us as we walk, to keep him occupied and interested (and stop him from declaring that ‘my legs are tired!’ after 5 minutes). I also encourage him to look around and ask me questions about what he is seeing. The other day he asked, ‘why are the leaves green, Mummy?’

Great question! Here’s the answer:

Plants are pretty clever. They make their own food! When it rains, they suck up water from the ground through their roots. They absorb a gas called carbon dioxide from the air. Then they use the energy from sunlight to change the water and the gas into their food, called glucose, which is a type of sugar. They use their food to grow. Then they release oxygen into the air, which we breathe.

This process is called photosynthesis. (I was pretty impressed that a three year old could slowly repeat that word back to me!)

Chlorophyll is something that is found in leaves of most trees and plants. It is a biomolecule that helps the whole photosynthesis process to happen. Plants can’t make their food without chlorophyll’s help.

Chlorophyll is bright green, and that is why leaves are green.

During the summer months, trees and plants are hard at work making as much food as they can to grow. Then in autumn, there is less light during the day, and many trees and plants start to shut down for the winter. The chlorophyll doesn’t have so much work to do, and the leaves lose their green colour and eventually drop off. These plants are called deciduous. Trees that have green leaves all year round are called evergreen.

We then started talking about why trees and plants are so important, and why cutting them all down is a bad idea – not just because they are beautiful to look at, fun to climb, and stop erosion from happening, but because practically all of the oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere comes from trees and plants. We need that oxygen to breathe! And my little one started to grasp a very basic concept of conservation…

 

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