Leaf shape

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Chart illustrating leaf morphology terms
Oddly pinnate, pinnatifid leaves (Apium graveolens, celery)
Perfoliate bracts completely surrounding the plant stem (Lonicera sempervirens)
Simple, palmate-veined leaves
A single laciniate leaf of Adenanthos sericeus

In botany, leaf shape is characterised with the following terms (with botanical Latin in italics in brackets):

  • Acicular (acicularis): Slender and pointed, needle-like
  • Acuminate (acuminata): Tapering to a long point
  • Acute: Pointed, having a short sharp apex angled less than 90°
  • Aristate (aristata): Ending in a stiff, bristle-like point
  • Asymmetrical: With the blade shape different on each side of the midrib
  • Basal: Arising from the root crown, bulb, rhizome or corm, etc., as opposed to cauline
  • Bipinnate (bipinnata): Each leaflet also pinnate
  • Caudate: Tailed at the apex
  • Cauline: Borne on the stem, as opposed to basal
  • Compound: Not simple; the leaf is broken up into separate leaflets, and the leaf blade is not continuous
  • Cordate (cordata): Heart-shaped, with the petiole or stem attached to the cleft
  • Cuneate (cuneata): Triangular, stem attaches to point
  • Deltoid (deltoidea) or deltate: Triangular, stem attaches to side
  • Digitate (digitata): Divided into finger-like lobes
  • Elliptic (elliptica): Oval, with a short or no point
  • Entire: Having a smooth margin without notches or indentations
  • Falcate (falcata): Sickle-shaped
  • Fenestrate (fenestrata): "Windowed" with holes (e.g. Monstera deliciosa or Aponogeton fenestralis), or window-like patches of translucent tissue. (cf Perforate)
  • Filiform (filiformis): Thread- or filament-shaped
  • Flabellate (flabellata): Semi-circular, or fan-like
  • Hastate (hastata), spear-shaped: Pointed, with barbs, shaped like a spear point, with flaring pointed lobes at the base
  • Laciniate: Very deeply lobed, the lobes being very drawn out, often making the leaf look somewhat like a branch or a pitchfork
  • Laminar: Flat (like most leaves)
  • Lance-shaped, lanceolate (lanceolata): Long, wider in the middle
  • Linear (linearis): Long and very narrow
  • Lobed (lobata): With several points
  • Mucronate: Ending abruptly in a sharp point[1]
  • Obcordate (obcordata): Heart-shaped, stem attaches to tapering point
  • Oblanceolate (oblanceolata): Top wider than bottom
  • Oblong (oblongus): Having an elongated form with slightly parallel sides
  • Obovate (obovata): Teardrop-shaped, stem attaches to tapering point
  • Obtuse (obtusus): With a blunt tip
  • Orbicular (orbicularis): Circular
  • Ovate (ovata): Oval, egg-shaped, with a tapering point
  • Palmate (palmata): Consisting of leaflets[2] or lobes[3] radiating from the base of the leaf.
  • Pedate (pedata): Palmate, with cleft lobes[4]
    • Pedatifid (pedatifida): Nearly pedately divided, but not as deeply[5]
  • Peltate (peltata): Rounded, stem underneath
  • Perfoliate (perfoliata): Stem through the leaves
  • Perforate (perforata): marked with patches of translucent tissue, as in Crassula perforata and Hypericum perforatum, or perforated with holes (cf "Fenestrate")
  • Pinnate (pinnata): Two rows of leaflets
    • Odd-pinnate, imparipinnate: Pinnate with a terminal leaflet
    • Paripinnate, even-pinnate: Pinnate lacking a terminal leaflet
    • Pinnatifid and pinnatipartite: Leaves with pinnate lobes that are not discrete, remaining sufficiently connected to each other that they are not separate leaflets.
    • Bipinnate, twice-pinnate: The leaflets are themselves pinnately-compound
    • Tripinnate, thrice-pinnate: The leaflets are themselves bipinnate
    • Tetrapinnate: The leaflets are themselves tripinnate.
  • Pinnatisect (pinnatifida): Cut, but not to the midrib (it would be pinnate then)
Serenoa seedlings have pleated elliptic leaves, but mature plants have pleated palmate leaves.
  • Plicate (plicatus, plicata): folded into pleats, usually lengthwise, serving the function of stiffening a large leaf.
  • Pungent (spinose): Having hard, sharp points.
  • Reniform (reniformis): Kidney-shaped
  • Retuse: With a shallow notch in a broad apex
  • Rhomboid (rhomboidalis): Diamond-shaped
  • Round (rotundifolia): Circular
  • Sagittate (sagittata): Arrowhead-shaped
  • Semiterete: Rounded on one side, but flat on the other. (See terete)
  • Simple: Leaf blade in one continuous section, not divided into leaflets (not compound)
  • Spear-shaped: see Hastate.
  • Spatulate, spathulate (spathulata): Spoon-shaped
  • Subulate (subulata): Awl-shaped with a tapering point
  • Subobtuse (subobtusa): Somewhat blunted, neither blunt nor sharp
  • Sword-shaped (ensiformis): Long, thin, pointed
  • Terete: Circular in cross-section; more or less cylindrical without grooves or ridges.
    • Semiterete: Half-terete, only one side is terete
  • Trifoliate (trifoliata), trifoliolate (trifoliolata), or ternate (ternata): Divided into three leaflets
  • Tripinnate (tripinnata): Pinnately compound in which each leaflet is itself bipinnate
  • Truncate (truncata): With a squared-off end
  • Undulate (undulatus): Wave-like
  • Unifoliate (unifoliata): With a single leaf

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mucronate, Answers.com, from Roget's Thesaurus.
  2. ^ "Cumulative Glossary for Vascular Plants". Flora of New South Wales. 
  3. ^ "palmate (adj. palmately)". GardenWeb Glossary of Botanical Terms. 
  4. ^ "Pedate leaf". Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Pedatifid". Retrieved February 24, 2014.