Leaf Chromatography – A Fun November Leaf Experiment

Nov 9, 2022

November is here! Can you be-leaf it? The colors on the trees are changing and the nights are getting colder. So let’s see what colors are hidden in the fall leaves!

Question: What color do you think we will see on the sheet if we extract them from the fall leaves with alcohol overnight?

Hypothesis: If you cut up leaves and let them soak in alcohol overnight, then… 

*Make sure to ask your #younginventor his/her hypothesis before moving onto the next step.


    • Colored leaves
    • Coffee filters or paper towels
    • Rubbing alcohol (nail polish remover or vinegar would also work!)
    • Clothespins 
    • Pencils
    • Small jars
    • Scissors


    1. Cut leaves into small pieces – make sure you keep the leaves separate by colors
    2. Place leaves into the small jar
    3. Pour rubbing alcohol over the leaves until they are covered 
    4. Place jars into a large pot filled with 2 inches of water – heat until the water boils (please note the alcohol should not boil just get warmer)
    5. Set the jars in a dark room overnight
    6. The next day cut your coffee filters or paper towels into thin strips that are long enough to barely touch the alcohol when suspended by the clothespin
    7. Wait a few hours – until the alcohol reaches the top of the strip
    8. Remove the strips from the jars and set them to dry 
    9. Once dry examine the colors that were inside each leaf

Let’s make some conclusions! Ask your child: 

    1. Did any of the leaves’ colors surprise you? 
    2. What do you think will happen if you mix two leaf colors? 
    3. Is this what you expected to happen?

Chlorophyll makes the leaves green and helps them carry out photosynthesis during the warmer months. But as fall arrives, the chlorophyll begins to break down and other pigments are revealed. Chromatography helps reveal these pigments. Chromatography is the process of using a solvent to pull color from something. During this process, colors are separated into distinct sections allowing us to see the full pigment of colors that leaves have hidden within them.


Did you know we have a club designed for children ages 4-12 so they can learn the importance of inventions from an early age? As a member of the club, you and your children will learn all about inventions while completing fun, easy STEAM activities. We hope to spark the creativity of every #younginventor!

Join The Club