Fall Leaf Chromatography

Materials - Fresh Green Leaves

Materials: Fresh Green Leaves

Variety of freshly plucked leaves
Clear plastic cups, jars or glasses
Rubbing alcohol
Plastic wrap
Coffee filters

Procedure: Place Torn Leaves in Individual Jars

Procedure: Place Torn Leaves in Jars

1. Collect some green leaves from multiple trees.
2. Tear up each leaf and place the pieces in a cup (one leaf per cup).
3. Add just enough rubbing alcohol to cover the leaf bits and cover with plastic wrap.
4. Allow the cup to sit for about 30 minutes.
5. Tie a piece of coffee filter to a pencil and place the pencil over the cup, allowing the coffee filter to dangle and just touch the top of the liquid.
6. Let the coffee filter sit for an hour or two.
7. Compare your results.

Procedure: Allow Experiment To Sit

Procedure: Allow Experiment To Sit

What Happened and Why?

As the liquid traveled up the coffee filter, you probably noticed a separation of colors. More than likely, you observed varying shades of green and maybe even some red, orange and yellow areas.



Leaves appear green because of a pigment called chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll can often cover up other pigments, though. When fall arrives and the leaves begin to change, chlorophyll breaks down, allowing you to see the red, yellow and orange pigments contained within the leaves. In the experiment above, you were able to see these hidden pigments on the coffee filter. Use these results to guess which trees will be most colorful in the fall!