My, What Big Leaves You Have


Why do plants’ leaves shrink the further from the Equator they grow? It may all have to do with maintaining a comfortable temperature. (New Scientist)

Sure, they can get up and leaf. But can plants hear?

Teachers, scroll down for our quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.


Discussion Ideas

The big, beautiful leaves of this species of bromeliad (Alcantarea imperialis) can be found in the mountains around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photograph by Paul Zahl, National Geographic
The tiny leaves of this snow buttercup thrive in the Russian Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land.
Photograph by Andy Mann, National Geographic







  • How might a better understanding of leaf size help predict how climate change may alter plant distribution?
    • The current period of climate change is associated with much warmer climates and arid conditions. “[I]f a particular region becomes warmer and drier, you may see smaller-leaf species replacing larger-leaf species because they’re better adapted to the new climatic conditions.”



  • Get outside and do a plant survey! What is the average leaf size of plants in your neighborhood?
    • Are these plants native or introduced species?
    • How might human activity have impacted plant distribution in your neighborhood?
    • Is there a difference in leaf size between outdoor plants and indoor plants? If so, what might be some reasons for the difference?




New Scientist: We may finally understand why tropical plants have huge leaves

BBC: Clues to why leaves come in many sizes

Nat Geo: Can Plants Hear?

One thought on “My, What Big Leaves You Have

Leave a Reply