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With a few simple home ingredients you can remove the cellulose in a leaf and reduce it to its lignin skeleton! Be sure to have an adult help you out with this experiment!


  • We start off by creating our solution – Mix 2 cups of water and 4 teaspoons of washing soda (sodium carbonate) into a pot. Place the pot on a stove and stir to dissolve the solution.
  • Once the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat, and add the leaves into the pot.
  • Let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, and carefully remove the leaves from the pot and place them into a shallow dish with cool water.
  • Put on some rubber gloves and use your finger to very gently swirl the leaves in the fresh water. The sodium carbonate can irritate the eyes and skin, so wear the rubber gloves when immersing your fingers in the mixture, and don’t touch your eyes.


  • Use the soft toothbrush to carefully brush the green parts of the leaf. Start where the stem attaches, and use short, gentle brush strokes to brush the green leaf tissue toward the ends and outer edges of the leaf.
  • Carefully remove the leaf and let it air dry on a clean paper plate.

What Happened?

The part of the leaf you can see now is a complex pattern of hollow veins making up the leaf’s skeleton.  A leaf’s veining system provides food and water to the rest of its cells. Since the leaf is no longer getting the nutrients it needs from the ground through the stem of the plant or tree trunk, its tissue will break down easily. All that remains is the delicate system of veins that make a lacy pattern! Try framing your leaf skeleton, or using it to decorate a homemade card.

Inspired by the work of HomeTrainingTools –

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