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Petiole (botany)

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Leaf of Pyrus calleryana with petiole

In botany, the petiole (/ˈpti.l/) is the stalk that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.[1]: 87 [2]: 171  It is able to twist the leaf to face the sun, producing a characteristic foliage arrangement (spacing of blades), and also optimizing its exposure to sunlight.[3][4] Outgrowths appearing on each side of the petiole in some species are called stipules. The terms petiolate and apetiolate are applied respectively to leaves with and without petioles.


Harvested rhubarb petioles with leaf blades attached
Acacia koa with phyllode between the branch and the compound leaves
Pulvini at both ends of the petioles of Elaeocarpus multiflorus

The petiole is a stalk that attaches a leaf to the plant stem. In petiolate leaves the leaf stalk may be long (as in the leaves of celery and rhubarb), or short (for example basil). When completely absent, the blade attaches directly to the stem and is said to be sessile. Subpetiolate leaves have an extremely short petiole, and may appear sessile.[2]: 157  The broomrape family Orobanchaceae is an example of a family in which the leaves are always sessile.[5]: 639  In some other plant groups, such as the speedwell genus Veronica, petiolate and sessile leaves may occur in different species.[5]: 584 

In the grasses (Poaceae), the leaves are apetiolate, but the leaf blade may be narrowed at the junction with the leaf sheath to form a pseudopetiole, as in Pseudosasa japonica.[6]: 391 

In plants with compound leaves, the leaflets are attached to a continuation of the petiole called the rachis.[1]: 98  Each leaflet may be attached to the rachis by a short stalk called the petiolule.[1]: 87  There may be swollen regions at either end of the petiole known as pulvina (singular = pulvinus)[1]: 97  that are composed of a flexible tissue that allows leaf movement. Pulvina are common in the bean family Fabaceae and the prayer plant family Marantaceae. A pulvinus on a petiolule is called a pulvinulus.

In some plants, the petioles are flattened and widened to become phyllodes (also known as phyllodia or cladophylls) and the true leaves may be reduced or absent. Thus, the phyllode comes to serve the functions of the leaf. Phyllodes are common in the genus Acacia, especially the Australian species, at one time put in Acacia subgenus Phyllodineae.

In Acacia koa, the phyllodes are leathery and thick, allowing the tree to survive stressful environments. The petiole allows partially submerged hydrophytes to have leaves floating at different depths, the petiole being between the node and the stem.

In plants such as rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum), celery (Apium graveolens), artichokes, and cardoons (Cynara cardunculus), the petioles ('stalks' or 'ribs') are cultivated as edible crops. The petiole of rhubarb grows directly from the rhizome and produces the leaf at its end. Botanically, it is categorized as a vegetable but, culinarily, it is more often used as a fruit.[7][8]



The longest known petiole is that of the royal waterlily or uape jacana Victoria amazonica which is up to 23 ft (7.0 m) in length.[9]



'Petiole' comes from Latin petiolus, or 'little foot', 'stem', an alternative diminutive of 'pes', 'foot'. The regular diminutive 'pediculus' is also used for 'foot stalk'.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Beentje, H. (2010). The Kew plant glossary. London: Kew Publishing. ISBN 9781842464229.
  2. ^ a b Mauseth, James D (2003). Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology. Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 0-7637-2134-4.
  3. ^ Capon, Brian (July 2022). Botany for Gardeners: An Introduction to the Science of Plants (4 ed.). Portland: Timber Press. ISBN 978-1643261430. Archived from the original on 2023-09-27. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  4. ^ "Parts of a leaf". TAFE NSW. New South Wales Government. Archived from the original on 2020-06-23. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  5. ^ a b Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521707725.
  6. ^ Heywood, V.H.; Brummitt, R.K.; Culham, A.; Seberg, O. (2007). Flowering plant families of the world. New York: Firefly Books. ISBN 9781554072064.
  7. ^ Foust, Clifford M. (1992). Rhubarb: The Wondrous Drug. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08747-4.
  8. ^ "High Altitude Rhubarb". Highaltituderhubarb.com. Archived from the original on 30 May 2022. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  9. ^ Decker, Joao S. (1936). Aspectos Biologicos da Flora Brasiliera. Sao Leopoldo, Brazil: Rottermund and Co. p. 49. Archived from the original on 2023-03-10. Retrieved 2023-03-10.