As a Chicago gardener, you’re noticing the changes as spring approaches this Wednesday. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the branches of the trees look thicker. Or, maybe you’ve seen buds on some trees swelling. Maybe you’ve seen the green shoots of flowering bulbs popping out of the ground. Have you seen any robins?
Soon leaves will be unfolding as the weather gets warmer. Leaves are an integral part of most plants. They develop in a diversity of shades, a variety of shapes, an assortment of sizes, a series of forms and a mixture of arrangements. These unique, diverse features of leaves enable them to work efficiently.
Leaves produce food for a plant. They utilize the water and minerals from the root system and solar energy to produce food. This food is stored and helps the plant to grow, develop and reproduce.
The processes of transpiration and photosynthesis produce a plant’s food. During photosynthesis, leaves transpire. Water and minerals are drawn to the leaves, and microscopic pores (stomata), usually more numerous on the undersides of the leaves, release excess water vapor and oxygen into the environment. Carbon dioxide, a necessary gas for the process of photosynthesis, enters through the stomata. When all the ingredients for photosynthesis are in place, food production takes place.
This ongoing work of plants and their leaves supports all life in an environment. Mature trees transpire gallons of water vapor daily, which adds moisture to the environment. Smaller plants transpire a lesser amount, but they also assist the ecosystem. Another way plants help the earth is by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen into it.
Chicago gardeners know that the work of leaves is important to the ecosystem, and gardening supports life on the planet.
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