One small leaf dancing furiously at the tip of a twig as the wind passes through the trees seems reluctant to join its peers. They lie on the ground in countless numbers or find themselves piled into drifts by that very same wind or are whirled away on eddies of air. Loved for their shade from summer sun when still green on the tree, they are equally loathed in autumn when brown and discarded.
Clearing them may be an annual chore but I do value my own harvest of leaves. After due processes, their decomposing remains enrich my impoverished garden soil. All I am doing is to make use of nature’s way of not allowing anything to be wasted.
How many leaves make up my composting heap? I once read an oak tree produces 500,000. Another reference suggested the figure was 250,000. Yet another pushed the total to 1,500,000. Who can really tell? How can the total be accurately realised? What I do know is that each and every one spent the whole of last season working hard to take in carbon dioxide to benefit the tree and promote its growth. A massive bonus for all air breathing creatures, including us, is the important by-product, oxygen. Without countless tiny factories in the form of plant leaves working hard all over the world providing us with that essential element, we would be entirely lost.
Nor should we forget the tiny creatures living on and frequently inside the leaf structure which make up the lower levels of the great food chain. Without caterpillars on the oak leaves at the crucial time, the blue tit families we encourage to nest in our gardens could not survive.
Author: Rex Hancy
Note from Editor ….
Thanks go to Rex for producing this article which I thought appropriate at this time of the year as the Ground Force team and others look to clean up parts of the museum. The leaves are an annual challenge that block drains, gutters and make the paths slippery.