why do leaf decay?

decayed persimmon leaf on cotton. The spotted appearance is where bacterial colonies have started and they slowly grow outward creating an interesting design

Leaf decay is a complex mechanism involving bacterial, fungal and chemical processes. As the plant material is broken down, numerous intermediate chemicals are formed, some water-soluble, and some not. Organic acids and tannin also result in leaf decomposition. These new compounds are not present in the living foliage. They can stain or react with the cloth or paper fibers to create interesting, and provide a whole new palate of colors. The spotted appearance on the surface is where bacterial colonies have started and they slowly grow outward.

Acer macrophyllum, or big leaf maple, Oregon maple, or broadleaf maple is a large deciduous tree.

Acer macrophyllum, or big leaf maple on merino silk

Acer macrophyllum, or big leaf maple on merino silk

Whenever I am out gathering plant materials for eco-printing, I often look out for ones that were partially buried beneath old leaves and dirt. I’ve used them in my experiments, and was amazed with the results. I am in awe with Mother Nature–even the decayed matter of nature has a beauty and design of perfection!

It was a satisfying experience and I am happy to share them in this post.

Persimmon leaf on merino silk

Persimmon leaf on merino silk

persimmon leaf on pre-mordant cotton

wonderful texture and colors from leaf decomposition

wonderful texture and colors from leaf decomposition

another persimmon leaf print

yellowish-grey spotted leaf print

prints using decayed leaf on greeting card

prints using decayed leaf on greeting card

eucalyptus leaf on cotton

I see yellow 🙂

eucalyptus leaf on silk. This one was a recycled leaf from previous work. The design reminds me of hot air balloon.

the skeleton of nature at its best–this is one of favorite!

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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10 Responses to why do leaf decay?

  1. Linda St Angelo says:

    What beautiful prints. I have always loved leaves that become skeletonized (is that a word?) ha ha when you are out walking and rooting around in the dirt. Of course, not much to a skeleton leaf, so probably wouldn’t print, but interesting that partially decayed matter gives such lovely prints.

    Like

  2. buntyw says:

    Fabulous – I’ve loved seeing all your prints!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan says:

    Mind boggling…such detail of nature in the stage of decomposition…there’s another word for this and I have ‘lost’ it, darn! Am I thinking of entropy? I’d never want to send the cards, they are lovely!!

    Like

  4. Nicola says:

    I love the results of printing with decaying leaves too, also I like using leaves that have had bites taken out it them around the edges from unidentified insects! Often I’ll soak leaves (especially tough eucalyptus) for five or six weeks and when I go to use them they are really slimy, it’s hard to believe that the prints just get more and more interesting.

    Like

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