The benefits of leaves are not limited to the plants alone. But, also extend to humans, animals, and the ecosystem around.
The prominent uses of the leaves include
- Oxygen production
- Remove carbon dioxide (other waste for plants)
- Decrease the surrounding temperature
- Food production
- Source of medicine
- Provide fiber
- For making utensils
- Home construction material
- To record history and other writings
- Tobacco products.
Introduction of Leaves
Leaves are greenish organs of plants distributed on the upper parts of the trunk. They are green due to the presence of a pigment named chlorophyll.
Unlike other parts of the plant, they are highly active.
This shows their active role in plant physiology. Both the formation of leaves and their shedding are also essential for the plant.
Leaves are tender, flat, and flexible in structure. They tend to get erect in the day and lie down drooped in the night.
Just like many uses of plants, there are also many uses of leaves.
Uses of leaves in our life
1. Oxygen production
- Oxygen is vital for life. It reaches our body cells and tissues and generates energy from glucose.
- This energy helps us stay alive and perform all our work.
- Air has 21% oxygen. And when all the animals breathe daily and release out CO2, the oxygen ratio can go down leading to suffocation.
- But green leaves release oxygen during the process of photosynthesis. Thus they help to maintain the proper oxygen ratio in the air.
2. Removes excess carbon dioxide from air
Besides the consumption of oxygen, we also leave out CO2 during expiration. This release is also further added up when we burn some wood or fossil fuels.
So this can drastically enhance the carbon dioxide levels in the air, which could be harmful to all the animals on the earth.
Interestingly, plant leaves take in CO2 as a part of photosynthesis.
During the process, they take up carbon dioxide and water to help form sugars like glucose in the presence of sunlight.
Thus they take up large volumes of CO2 from the air and help in bringing down its levels.
Since CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases, its increase can enhance global warming. So plant, through leaves, can keep a check on carbon dioxide.
3. Decrease the temperature
In general, the presence of green trees is considered necessary for low temperatures during summers.
This is true as plants minimize greenhouse gas effects. But the other mechanisms involved are through the leaves of the plants.
Leaf pigments absorb light from the sun and store it in the form of chemical energy.
Thus the light reflected in space from plants is low.
This expulsion of water into the air also reduces the temperature.
Thus leaves help to lower the atmospheric temperature around us.
4. Source of Food
Leaves are involved in food production. They prepare sugar which is stored in fruits, seeds, and tuber (potatoes) of plants. Also, some leaves become succulent and eatable. There are also many green leafy vegetables which are rich in iron and can be used as part of our food. There are some thousands of edible leaves which can be taken as a part of our diet.
Hence we can see leaves in all the ecosystems. Many insects, cattle depend on leaves for food. Similarly, small fishes and big mammals like sea buffalo and whales depend on leaves for food in the marine ecosystem.
4. For Medicine
Medicine is one of the important uses of the leaf. They are the biggest source of medicine from natural resources. Many leaves like that of digitalis, vinca, aloe are excellent sources of medicine.
Digitoxin from the leaves of the digitalis plant is used in case of heart failure, vincristine from vinca plants is a drug for the treatment of cancer, aloe leaves have moisturizing properties which help to heal the dryness of the skin.
5. Commercial tobacco
Tobacco that is widely used in cigars and other smoking and chewing products is obtained from tobacco leaves.
Few leaves are the source of good quality fiber for manufacturing ropes and threads. Examples of the plants whose leaves are used for the purpose include hemp, Henequen, sisal, abaca, etc. These fibers are hard and coarse.
7. For making Dyes or colors
Dyes are the coloring substances used to impart appeal color to food items and medical formulations.
They help to mask unpleasant colors and enhance the appeal of the substance.
Leaves are also sources of colors and dyes. Unlike synthetic ones, these are obtained from nature, so the process is called eco-dyeing or eco printing. Many leaves like
|Dye / Color||Leaf of plant|
|Pink dye||Sumac leaves|
|Blue dye||Indigo plant leaves|
|Brown color dye||Amur maple|
8. Small Utensils
- Though not large ones, leaves are traditionally used in making small utensils like cups and also used as plates.
- They are nature-friendly, disposable, and also have no untoward effects on humans.
- Leaves are knitted into cups or plates and dried later in the sun to make them slightly harder.
Then they are used for serving dishes, eating, drinking, etc.
Leaves used for producing utensils are
- Banana leaves,
- Palm leaves
- Areca etc.
9. Communication and records
Modern man has books, software documents to store his data and records. But, in the past, before the availability of paper, palm leaves were used for writing scripts and other literature.
They were used for quite a long time in this manner in different parts of the world. They are said to have been used since the 5th century BC onward. These are called palm leaf manuscripts. Interestingly these palm leaf records can be found without damages.
10. Home construction
This is another prominent use of leaves to man. Especially the large ones are used for house construction. These are specifically used for a rooftop for small huts or even houses made of mud.
They keep the house cool as they are bad conductors of heat. But, the roof is not stronger like the reinforced cement concrete. So, they can be blown off by heavy winds. Further, they tend to catch fire which is another risk.
Importance of Leaves in Plants
Leaves are essential for trees and plants too. They not only help in food production, as mentioned before but also has other uses like
- Transpiration (heat management)
- Movement of sap from roots to the top of trees
- Protection from herbivores
- Storage for plant Survival (in a drought).
- Expulsion of waste material from the plant body.
- This is a process of removal of water content from the trees.
- It helps to minimize the heat in the plant body.
- This transpiration occurs through the stomata present on green leaves.
- Stomata are the apertures present on the green surfaces of a plant.
- Since leaves have a number of stomata, maximal transpiration occurs through them.
- Moisture is sent out of the plant body during hot weather like summers in order to remove excess heat from the plant body.
Movement of sap
- Plants do not have a circulatory system from the movement of food and other matter in their bodies.
- For this, the movement occurs downward under the influence of gravity.
- It also occurs upwards due to transpiration.
- Since moisture is lost at the top from leaves, there is negative pressure created in the trunk for the movement of sap from roots to the tip of trees.
- This way leaves help to maintain the upward movement of sap.
Protection from herbivores
- In the case of the plant surviving in the desert or extreme water scarcity, leaves are modified to have thorns.
- These thorns are pricky and prevent the herbivore animals from grazing on them.
Storage of food and water
- Since water is scarce in deserts, desert plants have succulent leaves.
- When cut, they ooze out the sticky substance which has water and other essential food materials needed by the plant.
- Due to this arrangement of reserving water in leaves, desert plants can survive for a long time.
Expulsion of waste material
- Plants also do not have separate excretory organs.
- Their waste is collected into dead plant cells and also leaves.
- Leaves are shed at the regular time interval and new ones are formed in the plant.
- Plant during its course of living generates nitrogenous waste and is stored as alkaloids in the leaves.
- When leaves are shed off, this waste is removed off from the plant.
See more facts about plants.
They maintain oxygen levels, decrease temperatures, and act as a source of food for other animals.