Why Are Plants Green? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenna Conan

Jenna is a fourth grade teacher with a master's degree in instructional design and an undergraduate degree in elementary education.

This lesson is about the reasons why plants are green. Read on to find out more about photosynthesis, light energy, other colors of leaves, and something called chlorophyll!

What Makes Plants Green?

Think about what Earth looks like from outer space. You probably see the blue of the oceans and the green land of the continents. Why does the land look green? Because of plants! But what makes plants green? That's a little more complicated.

Earth from outer space
Earth from Outer Space

Light Energy

To understand why plants are green, you first have to understand how light energy works and how we see color. When you look at something, you are not actually seeing the color of the object. Instead, objects absorb some colors and reflect others. The color you see is the color that is reflected back to your eyes by the object you are looking at.

For example, imagine you are looking at grass. The reason that the grass looks green is because the grass is actually absorbing all of the other colors and reflecting the color green back to you. So, your eyes register the grass as being the color green.

Grass
Grass

Chlorophyll

Plants look green because of a natural pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll absorbs the red, blue, and other wavelengths of light, and it reflects the green back to your eyes, so that is what you see.

Does chlorophyll have any other uses in plants, besides making them appear green? Definitely! Chlorophyll and light energy are both important for plants in another way, too. Plants trap light energy from the sun. They combine this light energy with carbon dioxide from the air as well as water. They turn these into sugars that act as food for the plant. This whole process is called photosynthesis. Chlorophyll traps the light from the sun to be used for photosynthesis, so without chlorophyll, plants could not survive!

Why Can Plants Be Other Colors?

Sometimes, plant leaves can be colors other than green. For example, in the fall some tree leaves change to yellow, red, or orange. When plants get ready to shed their leaves for the cold winter, they slow down and eventually stop making chlorophyll. We see this as the leaves changing to fall colors. Eventually, these fall-colored leaves will drop off the plant for the winter, and the plant will grow new, green, chlorophyll-filled leaves in the spring.

Trees in the fall
Trees with Fall Leaves

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