Leaf playing. It’s a valuable life skill, one I learned only recently, and one that I’m sure Crikey‘s readers will find as useful as I did.

For this activity, you will require a soft, shiny leaf of the non-poisonous variety. The hardy New Zealand-sourced weed Coprosma repens, imaginatively known as ‘shiny leaf’ or ‘mirror plant’, is ideal.


The first step is to clean the leaf. This is traditionally done by rubbing it on the leg of one’s pants, a process guaranteed to remove all pesticides, herbicides, bacteria and live bees.* The second step, of arguable necessity, is to lick the leaf. Do not share leaves, to avoid the spread of glandular fever.

Once the leaf is slightly worryingly sticky and pliable, fold it in half along the leaf spine. Pinch the leaf almost at the top with one hand and close to the bottom with the other, and apply light tension. Gently wrap your lips around the top opening and blow until you feel the leaf start to buzz. You are close! Keep blowing. Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it.

If nothing happens, throw the leaf away and try again with a new one, asserting to whoever is around you that something was definitely wrong with that particular leaf.

Eventually, after about 20 minutes of puffing like a fool, some magical accident will happen and your leaf will produce an awful kazoo howl. You can vary the tone of this howl by altering the tension between your two sets of pinched fingers, or by changing the shape of the mouth opening. The likelihood that you will ever produce a recognisable tune is small to nothing, but don’t let that stop you trying for an hour or so until the leaf falls apart.

*This is not true. Except for the bit about the bees.

Peter Fray

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