The Cells of a Fallen Leaf Outside McCosh Hall

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB 321 class at Princeton University.

This image shows the cell wall of a fallen leaf outside McCosh Hall at Princeton, specifically the leaf of a sugar maple. I tried to pick the brightest part of the leaf in order to get the best quality photo. Trying to get the photo reminded me a bit of digiscoping, which is a practice birders use where they put their phone lens up to binoculars or a spotting scope to get a quick photo.

In the fall, many leaves change color due to the breaking down of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is normally the most abundant pigment in leaves, reflecting green light, but in the fall it breaks down, revealing the other pigments present. In this case, the pigment is likely carotene or xanthophyll, both of which can reflect orange. What we’re seeing here seems to be the cells of the leaf, as evidenced by the somewhat rectangular shape characteristic of the cell wall.

Using a Foldscope was a pretty cool experience! I’ve always equated seeing things at the cellular level to equipment worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, so it’s interesting to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

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