Leaves are specialized organs for performing photosynthesis. A leaf is often a relatively large, flat surface used to optimize sunlight capture. However, surfaces are areas that water can evaporate from, so a large amount of surface area exposed to sunlight results in increased transpiration. The anatomy of a leaf has everything to do with achieving the balance between photosynthesis and transpiration in the environment in which the plant grows. Plants that grow in moist areas can grow large, flat leaves to absorb sunlight like solar panels because sunlight is likely more limiting than water. Plants in dry areas must prevent water loss and adapt a variety of leaf shapes and orientations to accomplish the duel tasks of water retention and sunlight absorption. In general, leaves adapted to dry environments are small and thick with a much lower surface area to volume ratio.
- 13.1: Leaf Parts and Arrangement
- Leaves are composed of a blade and, sometimes, a petiole. They can be simple or compound. Some plants have paired appendages at the base of the leaf called stipules.
- 13.2: Monocot Leaves
- Monocot leaves have parallel venation and, as in Zea mays, have undifferentiated mesophyll.
- 13.4: Modified Leaves
- Some leaves have adapted in response to environmental pressures for a function other than (or in addition to) photosynthesis.