How to fold a leaf? 

Origami is not just an art or engineering discipline. Deep ideas from a Origami also apply to biology. Starting with development of any organism. In fact, if I said that all the diversity of multicellular animal life is just different folds of the same substrate – I won’t be totally off. 

To understand the depth of this idea (which is not apparent); you have to think about how an organism developed or how any new tissue takes the form it does. How does a lung grow or how does a new leaf grow? Since lungs are often less accessible as compared to leaves; I decided to test this idea by looking at baby leaf (growing at the tip of a plant) to see what’s inside. 

I choose a plant that I knew from my childhood – it’s called a “money plant” in my country (India); but I think it belongs to the Epipremnum genus.

So, I took a simple growing branch of this plant and took a closer look at the growing leaf at the buds. 

The green is a slightly mature leaf; while the red top looks like a growing leaf. So it was time to explore this growing bud under a foldscope. 

Methods: to explore this 3D structure; I knew I had to cut the leaf. I took a used razor blade (warning: always use blades with extreme care), and cut a thin slice of the growing bud. To make a simple thin slice; I often stack two blades (most use and throw razors come with twin blade anyway); and stuck them to each other with a double sided tape. That gives me two blades with a known distance. This technique was taught to me by another Foldscope user – @Laks. So I made a thin slice and was ready to image. 

To my wonder; I saw a growin spiral shape of the leaf under the microscope. That was a joyful moment – because the pattern is quiet beautiful. 

Closer to the tip of the bud; it formed a tighter but triangular spiral; while further down it was round. So the leaf is just rolled in like a “burrito” – isn’t that cool. So as it grows; somehow the burrito grows. But when the leaf matures; nobody can actually tell that it was rolled up so tightly. No marks, no left crease. Incredible. 

I also looked at other cellular structures of the plant – specially curious about where the red color comes from. I could see speckles everywhere; and found individual cells with red pigment 


But wait a second; what are those cryatalline structures?? I have no idea. I have never seen them in any plant samples I have looked at. Is that starch? I don’t know – please help. 

Here is another image of the crystalline structures. This is the second time, long crystals have stumped me. And yes, I did not cough on this sample (
Finally; here is a montage of some of the images of the same plant. 



@laks: although not pollen; please add this to your plant database. 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Saad Bhamla says:

    Nice post – there is something different about this post which makes it aesthetically very pleasing.
    I think it’s the consistent sizes of the image – 🙂


  2. Saad Bhamla says:

    @manu: In the collage: the top-left image is very cool too – pebble-like structure..
    Are those individual cells?

  3. Manu Prakash says:

    Thanks @Saad. I have been thinking about how to organize posts; length of words to picture ratio; use of quotes etc etc.. We should hit some balance.


  4. Saad Bhamla says:

    yes. yes. the quotes were very effective. I meant to comment on them.
    Good strategy! I like it a lot!


  5. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. Great post. The crystalline stuff is from plant sap, which has high concentrations of various sugars. If you spread out plant sap like a blood smear, you are sure to see crystals. Put it under a polarizer or dark field, you might see some good stuff.

  6. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. Will put it up into the floral database

Leave a Reply