When the heart and other muscles are damaged the human body undergoes a process of healing to produce new branches of blood vessels. Indeed any sustained period of growth leads to a spreading out of veins and capillaries as the body tries to nourish new cells. Just as in humans, plants transport materials through a network of tubes, known as xylem and phloem. These tubes terminate in the leaf where they form an intricate network known as leaf veins. In monocots such as grasses, the veins maintain a steady parallel pattern, whereas dicots such as Roses form a more spread out pattern. Under the watchful eye of Chrissy Evans-Fitzgerald, I got to witness the beauty and abstract form of leaf venation. This isn’t my first experience so far of Science and Art colliding, but it’s the most aesthetically pleasing to date.
Inspiration for card makers everywhere! Leaf venation using staining techniques
Just as stomatal density can act as a predictor of atmospheric conditions under which plants are grown, it seems logical that leaf vein density should adjust to match increased demand for water and nutrients. Chrissy’s work focuses on determining if leaves are plastic enough to adjust in short periods of time by altering vein density. It is an intriguing question, but like many such questions, technical issues stand in the way of obtaining an answer. Chrissy details the months she has spent adapting and experimenting with preexisting techniques for staining leaves.
Chrissy’s leaves are subjected to an intense regime of chemical treatments to decolorise the leaf. Following this treatment, the leaves are recoloured using a two step staining protocol. Once leaves are stained, a slide can be prepared and leaf vein density can be determined. An imaging software programme is used to overlay a grid and vein density is measured through a fairly laborious process of drawing over the leaf. Along with other chamber projects, Chrissy’s will be looking at atmospheric effects on the leaf.
http://www.ucd.ie/plantpalaeo/evans.html Chrissy’s bio
Plos article on vein density