veins in a Black Oak leafAt the right you see what I saw when I nonchalantly walked by a Black Oak tree near my home one January morning, held the leaf up against the sun, and looked at it with my handlens. The area you see is smaller than a US 10ยข piece. Pretty nice, huh?

The big blackish lines as well as the smaller silvery lines are all veins in the leaf. The largest black line is the leaf's single "midvein," running from the petiole to the leaf tip, the smaller blackish lines branching off the midvein are "secondary veins," and all the slender, silvery lines are smaller veins. All the veins, from midvein to the smallest silvery one, serve the same functions.

  • They lend support to the leaf tissue, helping it keep its shape, like the ribs of an umbrella help it keep its umbrella shape
  • They conduct substances within the leaf, rather like the veins in our own bodies conduct blood.

You can see that the network is very extensive. If the veins in a single elm leaf were placed end to end they would be more than 700 feet long (210 m)!

The word "vein" is a general one. If we were in a botany lab studying leaf anatomy, we might refer to leaf veins as vascular bundles. The "bundle" part of that term arises from the fact that each vein is actually a bundle of these two different kinds of conducting tissue:

  • Xylem consists of dead, woody cells that conduct water from the plant's roots to where water is needed in the leaf's photosynthesizing cells.
  • Phloem transports the tree's photosynthesized food from the leaves to other parts of the plant where it's needed, or to where it's stored.

We also meet xylem and phloem on our twig page.

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Conrad, Jim. Last updated . Page title: . Retrieved from The Backyard Nature Website at .