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Dr. Lanny  Neel, Garden Director Emeritus, World Botanical Gardens


Plants harvest solar energy from sunlight and convert it to chemical energy (e.g. sugar) in a process called photosynthesis. This process occurs in the green parts of plants. Plants are green because they contain a green chemical pigment called chlorophyll, and it is found in microscopic structures called chloroplasts. Photosynthesis occurs in the chloroplasts. Sometimes leaves contain other pigments besides chlorophyll, and these may cause the leaves to be various shades of red, orange, yellow, or combinations of colors like we find in the leaves of crotons.

Most plants produce specialized photosynthetic organs, called leaves, which are usually flat and thin and are efficient at intercepting sunlight. Leaves are attached to plant stems. Leaves can be used to help us identify plants, because each kind of plant produces leaves characteristic of that particular plant. Some kinds of plants (e.g., most cacti and a number of euphorbias) don’t bear leaves on mature stems, but, instead, photosynthesize with their green stems. Figure 1 shows a shoot of a Euphorbia with a few very small leaves that fall off the shoot shortly after they form, leaving it leafless at maturity.

Figure 2 shows a stem pad of prickly pear cactus with a few yellowish small tubular leaves that fall off the stem shortly after they form, leaving it leafless at maturity.


Figure 1: Shoot of a Euphorbia
Figure 1: Shoot of a Euphorbia
Figure 2: Stem Pad of prickly pear cactus
Figure 2: Stem pad of prickly pear cactus


LEAVES (page 1)



PALM LEAVES (page 4)


Come to the World Botanical Gardens and see examples of all of these and more for yourself. Even better, click here to book a Guided Garden Tour or call our visitor center toll free at 888-947-4763. We are open from 9 to 5:30 every day of the year.

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