Investigation: Viewing Stomata in Zebrina Plants

My students have not had a traditional lab in 2 years due to Covid, so I wanted to do more activities with the microscope. We started photosynthesis this week, which includes a leaf anatomy coloring.

One of the challenges with teaching photosynthesis is trying to make models more concrete. Photosynthesis has a lot of chemistry! Once students understand the basics of a leaf and the process, I like to bring them back to more concrete lessons. What is more concrete than examining a leaf?

In this lab, I give students a leaf from a Zebrina plant. I keep this plant in the classroom and find it easy to care for and quite colorful. You can also gather leaves from other plants to give students more to look at. Some students will complete this activity quickly, so having extra samples around for them is a good idea.

The instructions are simple, students use clear nail polish to cover a small section of the underside of the leaf. You can buy these cheap at dollar stores. After the paint dries, they use clear tape to remove the impression and place it on a microscope slide. They can see the stomata at 100x! (Many of my freshmen still struggle with high power focusing.)

Students sketch the leaf and what they see on the microscope slide.

cells with stomata
zebrina plant