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Leaves epitomise adaptive responses in vascular plants where environment alters expression of genes encoding both form and function. Endless variations in leaf size, shape and pose attest adaptation in form, while qualitative differences in photosynthetic mode reflect contrasting function.

Despite such variation, leaves fulfil a common purpose: to capture energy from sunlight and convert that currency into chemically useful forms to drive CO2 assimilation and subsequent growth. Light absorption and energy utilisation is considered at progressively finer levels of organisation from leaves (Section 1.1) to chloroplasts (Section 1.2).

Section 1.1 encompasses anatomy, light interception and leaf gas exchange and includes a case study on development of a process-based model for photosynthetic CO2 assimilation using A:pi curves.