In this series, we will be doing activities that can help you get outside, learn about our environment, and work with your friends and family to create something awesome. If you haven’t already, read the previous James River Explorers post about Bark Rubbings and build your identification guide!

What did one leaf lovingly say to the other?…”I’m falling for you!”

The leaves of a tree can be one of the best ways to identify its species, the season, or the health of our forests. In Virginia and along the banks of the James River, we love to watch the leaves of a tree change vibrant colors, drop to the ground in the fall, and re-grow in the spring. They come in all shapes and sizes and each tree has a unique leaf! If you look closely enough, you can see many ways how one individual leaf helps a tree stay healthy:

Wide, flat, and broad leaves help trees absorb sunlight and create its own food through photosynthesis.

Through the surface of the leaf, a tree can release extra water through transpiration.

A tree can “breath oxygen” by a process called respiration through its leaves.

To honor these awesome leaves, you can make a leaf print. Follow the easy directions below and be sure to include your family and friends!

What you will need:

  • Sheet(s) of paper
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Newspaper for the table surface

What to do:

  • Visit your favorite park or your backyard and collect several leaves from the ground (be careful not to pluck leaves directly from the trees)
  • Cover your project surface with newspaper to prevent paint accidents
  • Paint the underside of the leaf (you will be able to feel the veins and ribs) with your favorite color(s)
  • Place the painted side of the leaf on to the paper and carefully rub with your fingertips
  • Remove the leaf to look at your imprint
  • Allow to dry
  • Using a guide book you can identify the type of tree the leaf came from and write the name on your print (some public parks have signage for you to read and learn about trees, plants, and wildlife)
  • Display your prints or add them to your tree identification book!

Share your completed James River Explorers projects with us by posting a photo with the hashtag #JamesRiverExplorers and tag the James River Association.  Happy exploring!