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Sixth Form Government School

Unit 2 CAPE Biology Lab #3

Leaf Anatomy

The leaf is an organ composed of primary tissue, thus it originates from the apical meristem and
primary meristems. The vascular tissue is derived from the procambium and is contained in
vascular bundles as in the stem. In contrast to the stem, xylem of the leaf vascular bundle is
located on the top with the phloem underneath. The ground tissue (originating from the
ground meristem) of the dicot leaf is composed of two types of cells:

1. palisade mesophyll - tightly packed columnar cells, full of chloroplasts just beneath the
upper epidermis.

2. spongy mesophyll - loose tissue with many intercellular spaces. It is usually found just
underneath the palisade layer.

The leaf epidermis originates from the protoderm and contains several structures called
stomata through which gas exchange takes place. Stomata are frequently more abundant on
the abaxial epidermis.

To fully understand the photosynthetic functioning of a leaf, it is useful to construct a mental

image of the three-dimensional arrangement of leaf cells and tissues. The activities of the last
lab where we investigated gas exchange, and this one, where we observe sections through a
variety of leaves will aid this process.

Although leaves in general show a common plan in distribution of tissues, evolutionary

adaptations to different habitats, especially related to water availability may be associated with
distinct structural or morphological features. Mesophytes require adequate available soil
water; xerophytes are adapted to conditions where water is scarce and hydrophytes to
conditions where there is abundant water. Plants from various habitats have striking
anatomical differences in leaf structure.

An observation of a leafy branch from above will show that leaf overlap is minimal. There are
however some anatomical leaf differences. The anatomy of leaves in some species may vary
with the position of leaves on the plant. Some of the most important differences are related to
differences in light intensity. Leaves at the top of the canopy and exposed to full sunlight on a
daily basis are known as sun leaves. Those that are permanently shaded near the base of the
tree are shade leaves.
Observe differences such as area and thickness of leaf, stomatal frequency, the number of
palisade layers present, and the number of chloroplasts in each palisade cell. What advantages
may result from these differences?


Study the transverse sections of the following leaves and note their characteristics. Prepare
tissue maps showing extent of the tissues and arrangement relative to each other. For each
type of tissue do a HP drawing of a few representative cells.

Helianthus Leaf TS Mesophyte, Dicot

A typical dicotyledenous leaf structure is seen.

Note the following:

1. The prominent mid-rib containing a few large and some smaller vascular bundles.
Phloem is toward the abaxial, lower, surface with xylem toward the adaxial, upper

2. The supporting tissue collenchymas in this case beneath both surfaces of the midrib
with parenchyma packing the rest of the space.

3. The thin lamina with

a. an upper epidermis with trichomes and a thin cuticle,

b. a one-layered palisade layer of photosynthetic tissue

c. spongy mesophyll

d. an abaxial epidermis with some surface stomata, some guard-cells in TS distinct.

Nerium leaf TS - Xerophytic , dicot

This typically xeromorphic leaf shows many characteristics designed to conserve water.
Xerophytes usually have a high volume to surface area ratio.

Note the following:

1. thick cuticle on adaxial and abaxial epidermis

2. adaxial epidermis with stomatal crypts lined with epidermal hairs and containing sunken

3. 2-3 layered hypodermis

4. thick, compact mesophyll with very few intercellular spaces.

Xerophytic grass leaf Monocot

Refer to class discussions

Nymphaea Leaf TS Hydrophyte Dicot

Note the following:

1. absent or very thin cuticle on the epidermis

2. large air spaces in the spongy mesophyll resulting in a large intercellular space volume

3. small amount of supporting tissue, therefore little collenchymas and sclerenchyma,

although star-shaped sclerides may be seen.

4. Weak vascular bundle development, bundles are relatively few and small.

Acer sun and shade leaves

The sections differ anatomically. What advantages may result from these differences?

Note the following:

1. differences in stomatal frequency,

2. the number of palisade layers present

3. the number of chloroplasts in each palisade cell.

Identify the sun, and identify the shade leaf. Give reasons in your annotations.

Clegg with D G Mackean. 1996. A laboratory Course Practical Biology for A-Level. Yeo Chee Kai
and Lim Peng Ann. 1979. Singapore.