I hesitated to share this, because quite frankly, I think when it comes to our mystery tree, our findings from this experiment muddy the waters a little. But, there is a side that is kind of neat, and might be useful in other ways, so here goes.
I'm not sure if you remember our red cabbage indicator solution (or maybe, you've made it for yourself), but the reason red cabbage can be used to test for acids, and bases, is because of the red, anthocyanin, pigment in the cabbage.
Yes, I said anthocyanin...again.
If you've been following along with our fall science experiments, then that should be a familiar word. It's the pigment, activated in some leaves in the fall, that gives them a reddish color. So, now maybe it makes sense why we were checking to see if our leaves were acidic, or akaline (see Fall Science Part 3).
We also wondered if we could check for anthocyanin in our leaves (to basically confirm what we saw through our chromatography experiment), by mixing a solution of leaf "juice" with vinegar, or baking soda. We tore up a couple of leaves from our mystery tree, and let them soak in filtered water, for a couple of hours, and then gave it a try.
Our results were, sort of, the opposite of what I would have expected. We went from almost clear to begin with, to a dark, rusty, red with the baking soda, and a golden, orangey, yellow with the vinegar.
But, when we tested a maple leaf, that had already started to turn red, and so clearly had anthocyanin present, we saw exactly what we expected. Bluish green, with the baking soda, and pink with the vinegar.
It wasn't a total bust then, just not what we expected from our mystery tree. Still, if you've been wanting to do a pH testing experiment, and don't have any litmus paper, or red cabbage on hand, you might look around your neighborhood for an ornamental tree, with red to purple leaves, or watch for some bright red, fall foliage, and give those leaves a try.
Just remember, that while red cabbage is edible, leaf "juice" is not.
It's great to be a homeschooler.