After a leaf has fallen from a tree, if it is still green and hasn't dried out, is it still converting CO2 into O2 if not put in water?

Can anyone find any data showing how long any different species of leaf will continue to produce oxygen after fallen?


1 Answer 1


Short answer
It all depends on the time window you are talking about. After having been detached from the mother plant, a leaf will typically keep on photosynthesizing for a few hours or so.

Cutting of the stalk of the leaf results in impaired water flow and wilting. As soon as a leaf is detached from the plant, it will also be cut off from hormones, minerals and other nutrients. The result of this is that senescence (and death) sets in straight away. However, leaves will typically stay green and moist for hours or even days, dependent on the conditions it is stored. Hence, in practice, photosynthesis can be measures at least a few hours after a typical leaf is picked (source: Science and Plants for Schools).

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks so much. Any more-detailed information showing exactly how long they will continue to photosynthesize? $\endgroup$
    – Johan88
    May 16, 2018 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ It would be a nice experiment to use CO_2 with radioactive C14 isotope in an artificial atmosphere to measure it, or you can measure the increase of humidity (much easier, but less crazy scientisty and accurate). btw. the saddest biology question ever :( poor leaves... $\endgroup$
    – atevm
    Jun 7, 2018 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ Note that there are many plants where if you cut off some part of it and leave it lying on the ground, it will grow roots and become a new plant. $\endgroup$
    – JohnEye
    Jun 7, 2018 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ Every single thing that was once alive, once dead, once cut off begins to decompose immediately. Fully is the temperature is correct. O2 is produced during the day as long as there is CO2, tiny tiny amounts of chemistry (NOT NUTRIENTS), water, drainage in the soil medium, ventilation...actively photosynthesizing chlorophyll produces oxygen, 'sinking' the CO2 within its biomass. Just like the ocean. $\endgroup$
    – stormy
    Aug 5, 2018 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ youtube.com/watch?v=CrrSAc-vjG4 This would be fun for you to watch if you've not watched already. When they say the words, 'food for plants' I want you to hear me scream!! Otherwise, great documentary. $\endgroup$
    – stormy
    Aug 5, 2018 at 1:28

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