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Chlorophyll Leaf Prints in 5 Easy Steps

The art of leaf printing has been around for hundreds of years, with the first example discovered in the year 1,228 CE. From the 13th to the 19th century, botanists, herbalists, and doctors all over the world used herbal prints for medical research and identification. In this country, Benjamin Franklin began printing a leaf on the back of paper money in 1739. He had noticed in leaf prints created by his friend, botanist and artist Jacob Breitnall, that no leaf had identical veins. That made leaf printing a great way to combat counterfeiting. Fast forward to modern times, and both fingerprints for adults and footprints for newborn babies are actively used to maintain unique identities.

Now that you know a little about leaf print origins, let’s make our own! Follow the steps below and have fun!

Check out this step-by-step video.

Step 1: Find a few sheets of white unlined copy paper or art/scrapbook paper (preferable).

Photo of piece of paper on table

Photo by Edwin Guevara

Step 2: Find some green leaves in your backyard. If you don’t have a typical backyard, then feel free to explore your neighborhood street and collect leaves from any trees or plants (remember to be cautious of poison ivy and get private landowner permission!). Even “weeds” like dandelions are excellent and can have intricate leaves.

Photo by Edwin Guevara

Step 3: Fold your white sheet of paper in half.

Photo by Edwin Guevara

Step 4: Add one or two of your leaves to the paper and after making sure the leaves are lying flat, refold the paper so that the leaves are sandwiched inside the paper fold.

Photo by Edwin Guevara

Step 5: Using the back of a spoon, press as hard as safely possible. Make sure you press and roll the back of the spoon over every single part of the leaf. It may take a little bit of practice to get it just right, so keep trying to get a feel for which parts of the leaves need extra pressing. Open the paper to view your results!

Photo by Edwin Guevara

Welcome back to HabiChat!

My name is Sarah Witcher, and I’m new here! With the help of Edwin Guevara and Paula Becker, I’ll be taking over in the HabiChat and Wild Acres realm, hoping to continue to inspire (and be inspired by) Maryland nature enthusiasts. Feel free to reach out to us with any wildlife questions or topics you’d like to know more about, or share what you’ve done in the past year with your backyard habitat. We’d love to hear from you!

In this issue, we’ll consider how to approach the “littler” critters and appreciate mini-Maryland wildlife through the use of a macro lens. Also, habitat tips about end-of-summer bird baths and our favorite ferns will be featured, with a fun leaf print activity for artists of any age. Finally, enjoy a new section that will highlight the very best of what we here at the Natural Heritage Program do within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 

We hope you’ll come visit us and meet our new staff at the Maryland State Fair.


Sarah Witcher

Click here to have HabiChat—the quarterly backyard wildlife habitat newsletter from the Wild Acres program—delivered right to your inbox!

In this Issue

Header image with bumblebee