Decomposing Leaf

There’s a large plant inside my dorm. I’ve named him Reggie. I’ve never changed his soil, so lately I’ve begun to worry that some of the organic matter that falls off and into his pot (what I fail to pick up) might attract a fungus that could inhibit his growth. While I’ll eventually change the soil, I was curious to see if I could use my Foldscope to assess the danger my houseplant might be in. I dug around for a bit until I found a decaying leaf, and this is what I found:

The remnants of a long-dead lead in Reggie’s planter soil.

It seems like all the chlorophyll in the leaf has broken down, so all I’m left with are what appears to be the denatured remains of leaf cells. There are holes where it looks like cells have burst, but I’m guessing the cell walls here keep many cells relatively intact. The image being hard to resolve hints at just how disorganized the decomposing leaf has become; instead of neat layers, the plant cells seem to have become disorderly such that the surface of the leaf is no longer smooth, so each ‘elevation’ has a different focal point, despite my best efforts at keeping the leaf flat. Does anyone know generally the biomechanical/structural way in which plant cells decompose?

Reggie the dumb cane.

The good news is that it doesn’t look like there’s any (or very much) fungus present in Reggie’s potting soil!

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University.

Leave a Reply