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How to preserve autumn leaves in four easy ways.

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Welcome! In this article, we will show you how to preserve autumn leaves in four easy ways. We hope you enjoy reading it!

Table of contents:

Why Preserve Leaves?

Autumn is such an exciting time. The skies are crisp, the hedgerows full of birds, and the woodlands alive with squirrels. It is also a colourful time, with a carpet of vibrant, crunchy leaves falling every where you look. 

And who can resist swishing through a pile of autumn leaves? Scuffing and kicking them up with your feet? Stopping to pick up a beautiful leaf? There are so many things you can do with them … press them in journals, weave them into wreathes; crown yourself queen of the forest … 

Leaves can of course be used just as they are. But, it helps if they are supple – they are easier to work with or, if you have a bit more time to enjoy them before they disintegrate or break. One way of making them last longer and increasing their flexibility, is to preserve them. There are multiple ways to do this, some more complicated than others.

In this article, we will look at the four easiest ways to preserve autumn leaves:

Preservation Methods Compared

This video provides a nice little introduction to leaf outcomes using a couple of different methods.

How to Press Leaves

This method is the simplest and easiest way of preserving autumn (or any) leaves. You simply use a heavy weight and some kind of blotting paper to dry the leaves out.

Uses:

Leaves dried by pressing are useful for sticking into nature journals or creating pictures. They can also be arranged with pressed flowers to make a more interesting feature.

You will need:

  • Flat, thin leaves
  • Newspaper or other blotting paper
  • Heavy books or weights

Directions:

  1. Lay your leaves carefully on half a sheet of folded newspaper.
  2. Gently lay the other half of the newspaper on top of the leaves.
  3. Place the heavy books or other weights on top.
  4. Keep them somewhere cool and dry.
  5. Gently lift the top sheet and check up on your leaves once a week.
  6. If any are looking mouldy, make sure to remove them.
  7. Your leaves are ready when they are completely dry.

Tips:

  • To make the leaves softer, you can soak in them in a little diluted laundry conditioner first.
  • Alternatively, you can gently brush them with a thin layer of vaseline or oil.
how to preserve autumn leaves

How to preserve leaves with waxed paper

This method uses a blanket of waxed paper to enclose the leaves. Applying heat, then makes the wax melt and coat the leaves.

Uses:

Leaves dried by this method can be used for garlands, bunting and lanterns.

You will need:

  • Flat, thin leaves
  • Waxed paper
  • Hot iron
  • 2 cloth rags
  • Ironing board

Directions:

  1. Lay one of your rags on the ironing board.
  2. Lay a sheet of waxed paper, waxy side up, on top of the rag.
  3. Carefully places your leaves on top of the waxed paper.
  4. Gently place another waxed paper, waxy side down, on top of the leaves.
  5. Carefully place the second rag on top of this second sheet.
  6. Slowly and smoothly, run your hot iron over the cloth on top of the waxed paper/leaf sandwich.
  7. Next, gently press down and hold the iron over the cloth for a few seconds, before moving to the next area.
  8. Do this for the whole cloth/wax-leaf-sandwich area.
  9. Make sure the wax has al melted, then remove the iron and allow to cool.
  10. Once they are completely cool, you can carefully tease the paper off the waxed leaves, then cut the leaves out.

Tips:

  • Try and leave a margin around each leaf when cutting them out. This helps ensure they stay sealed.
How to dry leaves in a microwave

How to preserve leaves in a microwave

This method uses a microwave oven to dry out and preserve your leaves. 

Uses:

Leaves dried in the microwave can be used in nature journals, book marks and for inserting in clay tiles.

You will need:

  • Fresh, pliable leaves. 
  • Paper towels
  • Paper
  • Ceramic coaster or flat, microwaveable plate
  • Microwave oven

Directions:

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half, then open it up
  2. Carefully lay your leaves in one half of the open paper
  3. Fold the paper in half, sandwiching the leaves inside it.
  4. Then sandwich the paper-leaf sandwich inside your paper towel.
  5. Place this bundle carefully in the microwave
  6. Gently place a ceramic toaster or flat plate on top of the bundle.
  7. Microwave on medium heat for 30 seconds, then check your leaves.
  8. Keep checking every 30 seconds.
  9. Your leaves are ready when they are nice and dry and no longer stick to the paper.

Tips:

  • Make sure you keep checking your leaves every 10-30 seconds – if they become too dry, they may scorch and burn.
  • Thinner leaves will dry much faster than thicker leaves. So, it may be useful to dry thick and thin leaves in separate batches.
how to preserve autumn leaves

How to preserve leaves in a glycerine bath

This method uses a mixture of water and glycerine to preserve your leaves.

Uses:

Leaves dried in a glycerine bath, maintain their soft, supple quality. They can be used in bunting, vase decorations, leaf crowns or other crafts.

You will need:

  • Fresh leaves or twiggy branches
  • Water
  • Glycerine
  • Container

Directions:

  1. Mix 1 part of glycerine to 2 parts of water
  2. Carefully submerge your leaves into this water-glycerine mix
  3. Place a heavy dish on top to help push the leaves under and keep them submerged
  4. Leave them in the solution and check on them every 2-3 days
  5. Your leaves are ready when they are soft, flexible and shiny.
  6. Take them out, and blot them dry on  some paper towels
  7. Voila! Your leaves are ready to use.

Tips:

  • You can also preserve whole branches with leaves attached too. Just crush the ends of the branches and place them in a vase containing the water-glycerine solution. Store it away from heat and sunlight. The branch is ready once little dew-like beads appear on the leaves. Take them out of the solution, blot them off and leave them to dry.
how to identify autumn leaves

Other leaf preservation methods

Above, we have discussed four methods of preserving autumn leaves ready for use in your autumn leaf nature crafts. But, there are also several other methods you can use. Some of these include,

  • Dipping in melted wax
  • Coating in PVA glue
  • Laminating in plastic
  • Using nail varnish
  • Painting in glitter glue

Why not experiment and see which methods you prefer?

How to Identify Autumn Leaves

After you have preserved your leaves – especially when are using them in your nature journal, it is nice to note down their names. To do this, you can go and grab a tree field guide, or, you can find many of our commonest tree leaves right here in My Nature Nook field guides. 

Some of our most commonly found tree leaves, are:

  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Hazel
  • Horse chestnut
  • Oak
  • Sycamore

If you are not sure what they look like, or which is which, just head over to our tree leaves field guide x

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How to identify trees by their leaves

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Let's learn how to identify trees leaves!

In this topic, we will look at:

Let's learn how to identify tree leaves

Topic Overview

There are several ways to identify trees, such as by leaf, bark, bud, flower and growth habit and location.

Among these, for beginners, one of the easiest ways to identify trees is by looking at their leaves.

When trying to identify trees by their leaves, there are several things we can look at:

  • Leaf shape
  • Leaf margins
  • Tips and bases
  • Arrangement
  • Growth habit

How many types of leaves are there?

Leaves can be classified in several ways. First, by tree type – deciduous or evergreen, and second by growth type – simple or compound.

Deciduous trees provide our beautiful autumn colours. They are the trees which shed their leaves in autumn.

Evergreen trees are those, such as christmas trees, which remain green all year round.

Simple leaves have one single leaf per twig.

Compound leaves have multiple leaves per twig.

You may also come across the terms ‘broad-leaf’ and ‘needle-leaf’. Generally speaking, broad-leaf trees are deciduous and needle-leaf trees are evergreen. However, not all deciduous trees are broad-leaf. And not all needle-leaves are evergreen. 

For example, strictly speaking, larch is a needle-leaved conifer. But, unlike other conifers, it sheds its leaves in autumn. Holly is strictly a broad-leaf, but has a tendency to remain green all year round.

Identifying leaves by their shapes

One of the first clues to focus on when attempting to identify tree leaves, is the shape of the leaf.

There are many different leaf shapes, however, our most common leaf shapes, are:

  • Acicular (needle-shaped)
  • Cordate (heart-shaped)
  • Deltoid (triangular)
  • Digitate (finger-like)
  • Elliptic (oval)
  • Lanceolate (pointy and both ends)
  • Linear (long and thin)
  • Lobed (as the name says)
  • Obcordate (upside-down heart-shaped)
  • Orbicular (circular)
  • Palmate (like a hand)
  • Rhomboid (diamond-shaped)

Can you guess which shapes these common leaves are?

Describing leaf margins

After considering their shape, the next clue to look at when trying to identify tree leaves,  are the edges of their leaves, or leaf margins. 

Broadly speaking, leaf margins can be classified as:

  • Entire (smooth)
  • Crenate (small, little waves)
  • Dentate (with teeth)
  • Lobed (as the name says)
  • Parted (deep indentations)
  • Serrate (like a saw)
  • Sinuate (wavy)

Can you describe these leaf margins?

What are leaf tips and bases?

Can you guess what leaf tips and bases are? They are the tops and bottoms of a leaf. The tip or apex, is the bit furthest from the twig and the base is the bit where the leaf joins the twig (by the stalk).

We often assume leaves are all pointy at the tip and rounded at the base, but if you look closely you will notice they are not all like that. In fact, they can be all sorts of shapes. For example:

Tips can be sharp and pointed, blunt, indented or rounded, heart-shaped or square.

Bases can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, wide or narrow, pointy, heart-shaped, square or round.

Can you describe these leaf tips and bases?

What are leaf veins?

A leaf’s veins act much like our veins. But, instead of oxygenated blood, a leaf’s veins transport sugary and mineral-rich liquid around the leaf.

Like leaf shapes, margins, tips and bases, you can also use the leaf’s veins to help guide you in putting names to faces.

Some veins are neatly organised and branch off a larger, central vein. Others fan out towards the tip from the base of the leaf. Some leaves have long, parallel veins, and in others they are higgledy-piggedy all over the place.

How are leaves arranged?

The way leaves are arranged on their twigs can also be a big clue in trying to identify trees. There are three ways a tree’s leaves can be attached:

  • Alternate – Alternate leaves are arranged step-wise on either side of the twig, first one, then the next, then the next and so on…
  • Paired – Paired leaves are arranged in twos up the twig – two, by two, by two and so on…
  • Whorled – Whorled leaves are arranged in little groups or clusters up their stems. 

Can you describe these leaf arrangements?

Compound Leaves

At the beginning of this post, I spoke about simple and compound leaves. As a recap, simple leaves are single leaves and compound leaves are groups of leaves. 

Compound leaves can be arranged up their main stems, or fanning out from a central base and are described as:

  • Pinnate – Pinnate leaves are arranged on either side of their main stems.
  • Doubly pinnate – Doubly pinnate leaves are like pinnate, but every leaf blade is further divided into little pinnate leaves. Think of ferns and bracken.
  • Palmate – Lastly, palmate leaves fan out of a central base.

Can you guess which type of compound leaf these are?

Evergreen Leaves

Lastly, before we go ahead and meet some leaves, we will have a quick look at some coniferous leaves. Because, while we might assume all conifers or evergreens have needle-like leaves, at closer glance you will notice they are all different too. 

Conifers can also be identified by their leaves’ texture and arrangement:

  • Scaly, fern-like needles are often cypress or cedar
  • Clustered, rosette-like needles are larch
  • Feathery leaves are hemlocks
  • Long needles arranged in little bundles or 2, 3 or 5 are pines
  • Short, square needles attached to their twig by little pegs are spruce
  • Short, flat needles are firs

These leaves come from Scot’s pine, Douglas fir and cedar.

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Hello!

At My Nature Nook, we help you to grow your nature knowledge and create fun, family nature walks. Would you like to join us?

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Explore and connect with your local trees using our handy field spotter sheet.

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