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What are the Different Types of Leaves in Plants and Trees

Broadly all leaves are classified into two main types, based on the arrangement of the leaf lamina — the broad, thin, flattened surface of the leaf, which is also the site of photosynthesis and transpiration in plants.

What are the Two Basic Types of Leaves

1. Simple Leaves

A single leaf with undivided leaflets which is directly attached to the stem. A diagram of a simple leaf shows to have lobes, with gaps within them, which do not reach the mid-vein.

Examples: Maple, Oaks, Banana, Guava, Mango

2. Compound Leaves

Leaves with completely sub-divided leaflets having their own stalk. A diagram of a compound leaf shows a bud node at the base of each stem but nothing at the base of each leaflet.

Examples: Neem, Rose, Clover

Based on the types of leaf veins and venation, compound leaves are further classified into two types:

a) Palmately compound leaf

Leaflets radiating outwards from the end of the petiole, similar to fingers of the palm of our hands.

Based on the number of leaflets, the palmately compound leaf is categorized into the following types: i) unifoliate (one leaflet), ii) bifoliate (two leaflets), iii) trifoliate (three leaflets), iv) quadrifoliate (four leaflets) and, v) multifoliate (five or more leaflets).

Examples: Poison ivy, Buckeye, Umbrella plants

b) Pinnately compound leaf

Leaflets arranged symmetrically along the center of the leaf, where each leaflet appears to be pinned or attached to the midrib to have a feather-like in appearance.

Depending on the number of times pinned, pinnately compound leaves are categorized into the following types: i) unipinnate (single leaflets attached to the midrib), ii) bipinnate (single leaflets are pinnately compound) and, iii) tripinnate (leaflets are bipinnate).

Examples: Rose, Walnut, Hickory

Types of Leaf Based on Leaf Shape, Structure, and Border

 Types of leaf  Basic features  Example
a) Linear
  • Straight, long and broad shaped
Alpine Shooting Star
b) Ovate
  • Oval or egg-shaped
Mountain Spiraea
c) Elliptical
  • Elliptical
Corn Lily
d) Oblong
  • Rectangular shaped
Rose thistle
e) Cordate
  • Heart-shaped
Eastern Redbud
f) Lanceolate
  • Lance shaped
g) Acicular
  • Needle shaped
Conifers (Pine)
h) Reniform
  • Kidney shaped
Ground ivy
i) Orbicular
  • More or less circular shaped
j) Sagittate
  • Shaped like an arrow-head
common sorrel
k) Hastate
  • Similar to saggitate with two lobes pointing outward
Sheep’s sorrel
l) Lyrate
  • Lyre shaped
m) Spatulate
  • Spatula or spoon-like
Pussy Paws
n) Rhomboid
  • Diamond-shaped
o) Oblique
  • Unequal division of lamina
American Elm
p) Cuneate
  • Wedge-shaped
Carpet Weed

Types of Leaves Based on What Plants and Trees They are Found in

i) Fronds – Leaf of fern plants

ii) Leaves of conifer – Found in fir, pine

iii) Leaves of angiosperm – Leaves of common flowering plants

iv) Leaves of lycophytes – Microphyll leaves of fern-like plants like clubmoss and quillwort

v) Sheath leaves – Grass blades

Apart from the above types, there are different types of specialized structures of leaves with unusual features like the leaves of the Pitcher plant and Venus flytrap. They have highly modified leaves for trapping insects. Although the main body of the leaf is similar, the leaf tip contains hairy lobes that help to catch insects.

Article was last reviewed on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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