What is the structure of a leaf?

  • All leaves have the same basic structure - a midrib, an edge, veins and a petiole.

  • The main function of a leaf is to carry out photosynthesis, which provides the plant with the food it needs to survive.

  • Plants provide food for all life on the planet.

Watch the video to see how a horticulturist uses science in her job

What are the features of a leaf?

Photosynthesis is a vital process that occurs in the leaves of a plant. During photosynthesis, the leaves use light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and glucose. The glucose acts as a source of food for the plant.

Leaves have several features that play an important role in photosynthesis:

  • A large surface area helps the leaf to absorb as much sunlight as possible.

  • Leaves are thin, minimising the distance for carbon dioxide to travel into leaf cells.

  • A midrib provides strength throughout the leaf, keeping it upright and sturdy in the wind.

  • Chlorophyll is the green pigment that absorbs sunlight.

  • Veins transport water and glucose around the plant.

  • The petiole attaches the leaf to the plant’s stem.

  • Stomata are tiny openings or pores, which allow carbon dioxide to enter and oxygen to exit the leaf.

Why are leaves important?

Leaves provide food for plants, plants provide the food for all living organisms on Earth. Without plants all other food chains would fail.

Knowledge of leaves is important to horticulturists. They need to know the best conditions for different types of plants in order to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables.

Botanists also need to know about leaves to understand how plants relate to other organisms and the biodiversity of an area.

Activity - structure of a leaf

Structure of a leaf quiz

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Where next?

Discover more about this topic from around Bitesize.

What is photosynthesis?
What is carbon dioxide?
How to make a model plant cell