Flowers are showy and essential for reproduction by their plants, but leaves contain the photosynthetic aparatus and are the source of food that plants self-generate. Leaves are essential to the world's economy, providing the basic materials that feed both plants and animals. Of course there are other synthetic pathways and some stems are photosynthetic, but far and away most of the energy from the sun is captured by leaves and turned into plant biomass, which is subsequently eaten by just about everything.
Leaves have work they must do and that creates design constraints on them. Yet look at this diversity:
|wild lettuce, Lactuca, young plant|
|salsify, Tragopogon, a very young plant|
|watercress, Nasturtium officinale, growing wild|
|water lily, Nymphaea, many times the size of the watercress leaves|
|clary sage, Salvia sclarea, leaves are both hairy and fragrant|
|houseleek, Sempervivum, thick (succulent) leaves|
|the sprawling variegated leaves are bishop's weed, Aegopodium podagraria|
the pointy leaves are iris
Comments and corrections welcome.
Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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