↩ back to the box
Open up...



anical stress from wind. Leaves need to support their own mass and align themselves in such a way as to optimize their exposure to the sun, generally more or less horizontally. However, horizontal alignment maximizes exposure to bending forces and failure from stresses such as wind, snow, hail, falling debris, animals, and abrasion from surrounding foliage and plant structures. Overall leaves are relatively flimsy with regard to other plant structures such as stems, branches and roots.

Both leaf blade and petiole structure influence the leaf's response to forces such as wind, allowing a degree of repositioning to minimize drag and damage, as opposed to resistance. Leaf movement like this may also increase turbulence of the air close to the surface of the leaf, which thins the boundary layer of air immediately adjacent to the surface, increasing the capacity for gas and heat exchange, as well as photosynthesis. Strong wind forces may result in diminished leaf number and surface area, which while reducing drag, involves a trade off of also reducing photosynthesis. Thus, leaf design may involve compromise between carbon gain, thermoregulation and water loss on the one hand, and the cost of sustaining both static and dynamic loads. In vascular plants, perpendicular forces are spread over a larger area and are relatively flexible in both bending and torsion, enabling elastic deforming without damage.

Many leaves rely on hydrostatic support arranged around a skeleton of vascular tissue for their strength, which depends on maintaining leaf water status. Both the mechanics and architecture of the leaf reflect the need for transportation and support. Read and Stokes (2006) consider two basic models, the "hydrostatic" and "I-beam leaf" form (see Fig 1). Hydrostatic leaves such as in Prostanthera lasianthos are large and thin, and may involve the need for multiple leaves rather single large leaves because of the amount of veins needed to support the periphery of large leaves. But large leaf size favors efficiency in photosynthesis and water conservation, involving further trade offs. On the other hand, I-beam leaves such as Banksia marginata involve specialized structures to stiffen them. These I-beams are formed from bundle sheath extensions of sclerenchyma meeting stiffened sub-epidermal layers. This shifts the balance from reliance on hydrostatic pressure to structural support, an obvious advantage where water is relatively scarce. Long narrow leaves bend more easily than ovate leaf blades of the same area. Monocots typically have such linear leaves that maximize surface area while minimising self-shading. In these a high proportion of longitudinal main veins provide additional support.

Interactions with other organisms

Some insects, like Kallima inachus, mimic leaves
Although not as nutritious as other organs such as fruit, leaves provide a food source for many organisms. The leaf is a vital source of energy production for the plant, and plants have evolved protection against animals that consume leaves, such as tannins, chemicals which hinder the digestion of proteins and have an unpleasant taste. Animals that are speci

Warning: the message above can be a phishing scam. See: legal notes