See the rainbow in a leaf with a leaf chromatography experiment.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Leaf Chromatography Experiment

Even green leaves have more colors than you may think! See the hidden rainbows they contain with a leaf chromatography experiment.

What You'll Need:

  • Coffee filter
  • Scissors
  • Leaves
  • Coin
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Jar
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • Foil

Leaves have a green pigment called chlorophyll that they use to capture sunlight. But did you know that leaves also have pigments of other colors to capture colors of light that chlorophyll misses? You can use chromatography to see the many colors in a leaf.

Step 1: Cut a strip one inch wide from a coffee filter. Cut one end of the strip to a point.

Step 2: Place a leaf on the paper 1/4 inch above the cut. Roll the edge of a coin over the leaf, pressing green leaf juice into the paper.

Step 3: Let the paper dry, and repeat the process with three different leaves.

Step 4: Pour a 1/2-inch layer of rubbing alcohol into the bottom of a jar.

Step 5: Tape your paper strip to the middle of a pencil and hang it so that the very tip of the strip touches the alcohol. (The colored strip of leaf "juices" should not touch the alcohol -- you may have to adjust the length of the strip.)

Step 6: Lay a piece of foil over the top of the jar to keep the alcohol from evaporating.

Step 7: Watch carefully as the alcohol moves up the filter paper, carrying the pigments along with it. In 10 to 20 minutes the colors should be separated -- do not allow them to run to the top of the paper.

How many colors do you see? Could you see them in the leaf itself? The finished paper is called a chromatograph. Let it dry and use your chromatograph for a special bookmark.

Read more science projects for kids: classifying plants for an experiment that examines the survival mechanisms of plants that live in low-moisture environments.

For more fun science projects and activities, check out: