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Can A Plant Live and Survive Without Its Leaves?

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If you have a garden or a few potted plants, then this must have crossed your mind. We have all seen houseplants dropping leaves due to lack of water, and this got me thinking:

Plants need leaves for Photosynthesis. If a plant loses its leaves, it will usually generate new ones as it needs them in the long run to live. But if the plant isn’t causing any fresh leaves after losing the original leaves, it will die

If a plant is losing leaves, it doesn’t mean it will die off immediately. It may be shedding, or there could be another problem. Certain types of leaves can survive without leaves through adaption and evolution. You can check the plant to determine the cause and then know if the plant will survive or not. 

Importance of Leaves For Plants

Without leaves, most plants cannot make food to sustain the plant’s structure, and they will die. Yet, some plants have adapted to turn their stems into a leaf that has taken over this functionality. More on that later.

Why do plants need leaves?

The leaf is an organ of the plant which is open to the environment. It is a means for the plant to interact with the surroundings and take in necessary nutrients. The primary responsibility of a leaf is to make nutrients or food for the plant. Plants do not eat food like animals; but instead, they make it and use it. 

The leaf does not immediately absorb the drop of water falling on it; she slowly drinks with great pleasure!

Mehmet Murat ildan

They use sunlight, water from the ground, and carbon dioxide for this. Leaves make sugar or starch from carbon dioxide and water while using sunlight as energy. 

Process of making food for plants in the leaf

To make their own food, plants utilize the process of photosynthesis. A plant converts light into energy that it can use to sustain itself.

Leaves use the chemical chlorophyll to use sunlight energy for this process, and high concentrations make leaves appear green in color. 

Once the glucose and starch (food) are at the finish line, they get transport to the rest of the plant. When the leaves don’t use chlorophyll as they don’t need to make food, they change colors. 

This can be seen in the fall season, wherein many leaves change colors and are also shed to prevent water loss.

How does Photosynthesis occur?

Plants use photosynthesis to convert energy from light to chemical energy. Chemical energy in itself is what is utilized for fuel.

This chemical energy usually comes in the form of carbohydrate molecules like sugars, and in a lot of cases, oxygen is a by-product. 

Plant proteins have chlorophyll and are inside chloroplasts. The majority of chloroplasts in a plant are found in its leaves. Carbon dioxide converts into carbohydrates or sugars. The plant then uses these sugars as fuel for growth and sustains the continuity of the plant’s cells.

How do leaves get the raw materials for Photosynthesis?

All plants have roots that absorb water from the ground. This water reaches leaves through internal channels or veins known as xylem. This water from the ground is known to have chemicals that are good for the overall health of the plants.

As with the leaf itself, it takes in carbon dioxide through its pores and produces air as a by-product. This air has lots of oxygen created as a result of the plant using carbon dioxide and water.

Stomata, the leaf’s pores

Most leaves are known to have tiny pores or openings known as stomata, and these pores can open and close during Photosynthesis. Often the stomata let out water vapor, too, and this process is called transpiration.

It is the job of the leaf to control the moisture in the plant by opening and closing pores or its stomata.

This helps the plant to maintain the water within the cell structure.

When the pores open, the water vapor escapes resulting in the loss of water. A lot of water loss isn’t good for the plant; hence, leaves must ensure this happens.

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Anatomy of a Leaf

A leaf has many tissues, and there are a few important ones. The epidermis covers the surface, mesophyll, and veins.

The Epidermis, the leaf’s exterior

The outer layer of the leaf, which consists of cells, is called the epidermis. This protects the inner cells from the external environment. The epidermis has attached stomata, which we have previously described as the leaf’s pores.

They, in turn, have cells that have chloroplast. Some subsidiary cells don’t have chloroplast. 

These pores allow the passage of gases and water for photosynthesis and mainly aid with preventing the leaf from drying out.

Mesophyll, the leaf’s interior

The tissues or interior of the leaf is called the mesophyll, or middle leaf. It is the layer where Photosynthesis occurs. In some plants, this part is in two layers.


Veins are a network of xylem that supplies moisture for photosynthesis and phloem, which is plant tissue that aids with the transport of organic nutrients. These remove the glucose made by the photosynthesis process.

There are other parts such as the hairs and waxy cuticles that also form parts of the leaf. These organs have different functions, such as secreting oils or preventing transpiration.

Why do plants have different leaf shapes and sizes?

You might have thought about this, why do plants need to have different leaf shapes, and why do they come in different sizes? Don’t they all mainly have the same purpose?

It turns out that plant leaves are really made different in both makeup and dimensions due to evolution spanning millions of years.

In normal circumstances, a leaf’s growth or size depends on two factors that are as follows.

1. The size and shape of the leaf are related to the water available for growth. Water is the medium that carries nutrients throughout the plant as food.

2. Heat is another factor that causes different sizes and shapes in leaves. Warmth is what controls the speed of growth of the plant. Some plants need to grow slower than others. These will usually have smaller leaves, such as pine trees.

The variances in the leaves’ shapes happen over generations of the plants.

Environmental factors can change the shape and size of plants’ leaves. Long leaves, for instance, are ideal for warmer climates. They help regulate temperatures, whereas larger leaves can harvest much more light, like solar panels. These leaves are usually in plants that need more energy for growth.


Conclusion on can a plant survive without it’s leaves

Most plants need leaves to live as they make the nutrients to survive. But some plants don’t have leaves in the first place, like cactus. They instead use their stem for functions like photosynthesis.

And if the leaves fall off, almost all plants will try to regenerate them. The fallen leaves, which when coming in excess, can be used as leaf mulch, which I have an article on, especially with leaf mulch benefits and creation, linked through here. However, if they cannot regenerate them, it may be a sign that it is dying, so try to keep a critical eye on your plant.

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