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September Leaf Study – Smoke Tree

September Leaf Study Smoke Tree using the Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter

“During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, ‘This is a white-oak leaf,’ the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades.” Anna Botsford-Comstock

The September newsletter was all about trees and a leaf study. I was trying to find a new subject for my study this month and decided upon a fairly new tree I have growing in my front yard. We have not pruned it to be a tree but have let it grow more in the shape of a bush. Our smoke tree provided a wonderful focal point for my leaf study using the suggestions in the newsletter and on the notebook page provided.

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Doing research on this interesting plant, I learned it has numerous common names including mist tree, cloud tree, wig tree, and Jupiter’s beard. I have always liked these trees because they develop this interesting pink “smoke” over the summer months and then the leaves turn a deep reddish purple in the autumn. Our smoke tree has just started to blush with red color on many of the leaves. Soon it will be ablaze with its autumn splendor.

Smoke Tree Leaf Study using the Handbook of Nature Study (4)

 Can you see the hint of red in some of the leaves above? I used the prompt from the newsletter to compare the top and bottom of the leaves. The tops of the leaves are a dark gray green color and the backs are more of a silvery green color. You can feel the veins on the bottom of the leaf but the tops are smooth. Also, you can see the beginnings of the dark little fruits that form on this plant in the fall.

Smoke Tree Leaf Study using the Handbook of Nature Study (5)

I used the suggestion on the notebook page to smell the leaf and then to crush it and see if that enhances the scent. Yes! I thought the leaf had the fragrance of spicy earth but when I was doing my reading about the smoke tree, I found that it said the crushed leaf smells like orange peel. Once they put that thought in my head I had to agree…orange peels. In the photo above, you can see a few of the dark small seeds mixed in with the pink smoke.

Smoke Tree Leaf Study using the Handbook of Nature Study (1)

So here is my completed notebook page with all my observations and interesting facts…an a watercolor drawing of the leaf. I may print a photo of the tree and attach it to the back of my notebook page for my journal since I have one that I took that I especially like. My page is now tucked away in my nature journal binder and thinking about it makes me happy.

Using the notebook page, I realized that I need to make the prompt on the next notebook page a little more narrow so if we want to use it as a nature journal topper it will fit in a sketchbook or blank nature journal better. Look for that next month!


Need some additional ideas?

Here is a video I made on how to make a watercolor leaf which is especially good for beginners: Watercolor Leaf on YouTube.

I created another video featuring watercolor crayons that create a beautiful leaf in my nature journal: Watercolor Crayons – Leaf Demonstration.

Here is a link to Hearts and Trees: Fall Nature Study- Things to Do With Leaves (10 things to do with leaves)