Making Leaf Skeletons

  I'm not ashamed to say I stole this idea from my sister.  She posted some pictures last week of their leaf skeletons and I knew my boys would love it.  I also knew she would not mind my stealing it or sharing it; she's wonderful like that!  It was a wonderfully fun science project and perfect with the fall weather and all our talk of leaves.

For this project you will need:

  1. leaves
  2. large pot
  3. water
  4. washing soda--- NOT baking soda (we used Arm and Hammer)
  5. large bowl
  6. paint brushes 
  7. paper towels

    We first went on a leaf hunt and being real scientists we chose leaves of all shapes, sizes and colors.  My boys even picked a few bright greens still on the trees. (Though I'll tell you that large leaves work best).

    After leaf hunting we came home and put all of our leaves into a big pot on the stove.  We added 4 cups of water and 3/4 cups Washing Soda and brought the mixture to a boil.  We turned the burner down a bit but continued to boil our leaves for an hour.  For green leaves let the mixture boil longer; you can add more water if the pot starts to dry out.

The washing soda is white at first but will dissolve 

The leaves will start to get a soapy waxing coating them 

    After an hour we transferred the leaves to a large bowl and added enough fresh water to cover the leaves.  This allows them to cool off and also washes the washing soda residue off of them a bit.

    One by one we took leaves out of the water bath and spread them gently on paper towels.  We then used our brushes to gently brush away the colored layers of the leaf until just the skeletons of the leaves were left.  Some leaves could handle more vigorous brushing than others.  Some leaves worked better than others.  A few times we dunked our brushes back into the bowl of watery leaves on the table and were able to brush off a few more layers just by wetting the brushes down with the soapy water.  We kept holding our leaves up to the light and compared how many veins we could see on the various types of leaves.

This leaf was thicker and I could scrub at it more than others

Looking at all the fine fibers inside 

After scrubbing with some soapy water from our bowl the leaf becomes transparent


  1. This seems like really cool science/botany to me! So fascinating!!!

    1. It was so neat! We had no idea leaves had quite so many veins!

  2. stealing? pfft! I'd rather say you were inspired! What are sisters for! #practicalmondays

    1. Exactly! She was totally fine with my "theft!" :)


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