DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A sample of leaf mould. Leaf mould is made by collecting fallen leaves and storing them in a damp environment such as a heap, or within plastic bags. Over a period of months, fungi, bacteria and small animals including worms act to break down the cellular structure of the leaves, eventually reducing them to a friable compost with a high organic content but low fertility for plant growth. The picture shows a sample taken after 12 months of storage. The long edge of the picture represents 8cm. The leaves are mostly from beech, Fagus sylvaticus, but they are no longer recognisable. The leaf mould consists of a friable compost of the leaves, together with small sand particles that were picked up with the original leaves, and a few twigs and seed pods that have not yet fully degraded. At this stage, leaf mould is a valuable soil conditioner.
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