Skeleton Leaves

Did you know the art of skeletonizing leaves was practiced by the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty? As a nature lover, I decided to challenge myself with this ancient practice right in my kitchen! Skeletonizing leaves took a bit of patience and time, but watching the leaves transform was worth the effort! I created fall-inspired cards with my project. What will you do with yours?

  1. Ages: 12 - 16

  2. 2+ hours

  3. Messy

  4. Grownup needed


Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Before you begin, take note that an adult should supervise all activities involving the stove!

    Pour the water and washing soda into your pot, mix the two ingredients, and bring the water to a boil.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    After the water has reached a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and add 1-2 of your leaves. Simmer the leaves in water for 2-3 hours, then remove the pot from the heat. The water will be brown and murky, which is a good indication that your leaves are ready.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    Use tongs to transfer the leaves to a colander.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    Discard the water and rinse the pot. Add ½ cup of bleach to the pot, then soak your leaves in the bleach for 30 minutes. This will help break down your green leaf tissue.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Step 5

    Wearing rubber gloves, gently take a leaf out of the pot. Carefully rinse it under a faucet. Use your fingers to gently rub away the green leaf tissue. As you rub your fingers toward the ends of the outer edges of the leaf, you'll start to see the colored leaf tissue wash away leaving a clearer, translucent layer.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Tip

    Use a paintbrush or toothbrush to gently brush away the green leaf tissue.

  • Step 6

    Once you have the green leaf tissue rubbed off, you are left with a clearer leaf. We decided to take a step further, and remove the rest of the tissue by gently peeling it from the veins of the leaf.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

  • Step 7

    Let your bare leaf skeleton fully dry and glue it on a piece of cardstock to make your own card! What else can you make with your leaf skeleton?

    Photo reference of how to complete step 7

  • FactMagnifying graphic

    What is it? 

    The part of the leaf you're looking at now is the complex system of veins, which makes up the leaf skeleton. The leaf skeleton is a part of a transportation system that delivers nutrients from the tree trunk and moves nutrients throughout the leaf.

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