Doppler 9&10 STEM – Changing Leaves Up Close

Last week we took a look at the pigment in leaves by looking at how water can show us the different colors that make up black pigments in a marker. If you missed last week’s Doppler 9&10 STEM, check it out right here! Today we are going to see the chemicals inside of leaves that make all of the beautiful colors we see in the fall! We will start with the technical bit. There are 4 chemicals that impact leaf colorLeaf

  1. Chlorophyll
  2. Carotenoids
  3. Flavonoids
  4. Anthocyaniods

Those are a bit of a mouth full but let’s break it down even further.

Chlorophyll makes leaves green, it’s also what the tree uses to convert sunlight into energy to grow! During the Fall we see less sunlight during the day so the tree stops making chlorophyll, which just leaves behind the Carotenoids and the Flavonoids in the leaf.

Carotenoids and Flavonoids are responsible for the yellow and orange color left over after the green fades. It takes longer for these chemicals to break down in the leaves so that color lasts longer.

Finally, Anthocyaniods make the red color. The reason it takes so long to see the vibrant red during the fall is that the tree doesn’t start making this chemical until temperatures cool off and sunlight decreases. Now… Let’s look at these up close!

What you need:

  • Leaves from your backyard
  • Paper Plates
  • Paper Towel
  • Fork/Spoon
  • Scissors(optional)
  • Tongs
  • Gas or Electric Stove
  • Sauce Pan or Pot
  • Rubbing Alchohol
  • Mason Jars or Glass Cups
  • A Parent/Guardian
  • Patience and Time!

How to:

  • Turn your stove on to high heat
  • Place water in a saucepan and let boil (5 min)
  • Put the leaves from outside in the boiling water
  • Let the leaves boil for 5 minutes
  • While leaves are boiling, pour 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol in each mason jar
  • Carefully move the pot off the hot burner and turn the burner off
  • Set the leaves on a paper plate tongs to carefully remove the leaves from the hot water
  • Make sure the leaves are separated by type
  • Cut or break up the leaves
  • Place the broken leaves in their respective jars
  • Design the jars so you know which jar is for which leaf!
  • Once the alcohol and leaves are In their respective jars, place a piece of paper towel in each of the mason jars
  • Wait 12-24 hours and watch the color travel up the paper towel
  • You should notice different colors along the path, this represents the breakdown of chemicals in the leaves and the colors that the leaf still may change into.
  • Use different color leaves and send us pictures of you doing the experiments!

If your kiddos try this experiment, send us photos of you and your experiment and you might get to see it during weather on The Four on Tuesdays and Thursdays!

Make sure you tune in every Tuesday and Thursday for a New 9&10 STEM. Send us an email at weather@9& or find us on Facebook and at Doppler 9&10 Weather Team if you have a weather question or want something in science explained! It does not have to be weather-related! Anything Science or math-based we’ve got you! You can always get the latest forecast on as well as interact with us on social media!

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Categories: Doppler 9&10 STEM, the four