Leaf morphology and the Air Potato
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Grab your child and jump into a pile of leaves. Take a few and grab your cell phone. Google search “leaf morphology.” There are so many ways to ID a plant! How do you name the leaf shape? Look up into the tree. Can you describe how the leaf is attached to the tree? Is the leaf rounded, or does it have a rough edge? Are there leaflets? Can you feel the leaf veins? How are they arranged?
It’s a lot of fun to discover all the different ways a leaf can be seen and identified.
My personal favorite is the Sweet Gum tree. It’s leaves have a serrated margin! Not smooth at all like most leaves I’ve seen. They are also star shaped.
This is a great time to use a magnifying glass!
Leaf morphology is also necessary when you are looking to find invasive plants in your community. This is the Air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, a Category 1 Invasive plant. It quickly invades and takes over the space of native plants that should be here. (Never mind that its leaves are heart shaped!) It can grow 8 inches a day! Looking closely at its leaves can be very helpful in making a proper ID. See here how the leaf veins all radiate from a point? Notice the stem coming out from underneath the leaf?
All of the plants little bulbils fall to the ground and grow into more Air potato plants.
You can help the native creatures by removing Air potato plants from your yard. Try also to get their tuber root. You can burn them, freeze them for 2 days, or dispose of them in the landfill garbage.