Leaf shape

Chart illustrating leaf morphology terms. Click the image for the details.
Oddly pinnate, pinnatifid leaves (Apium graveolens, Celery).
Perfoliate bracts completely surrounding the plant stem (Lonicera sempervirens).
palmately compounded leafs
A single laciniate leaf of Adenanthos sericeus

In botany, leaf shape is characterised with the following terms (botanical Latin terms 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
  • Bipinnate (bipinnata): Each leaflet also pinnate
  • 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
  • Falcate (falcata): Sickle-shaped
  • Filiform (filiformis): Thread- or filament-shaped
  • Flabellate (flabellata): Semi-circular, or fan-like
  • Hastate, spear-shaped (hastata): 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
  • 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
  • Peltate (peltata): Rounded, stem underneath
  • Perfoliate (perfoliata): Stem through the leaves
  • 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)
  • Pungent: 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
  • 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
  • Trifoliate (or trifoliolate), ternate (trifoliata): Divided into three leaflets
  • Tripinnate (tripinnata): Pinnately compound in which each leaflet is itself bipinnate
  • Truncate (truncata): With a squared off end
  • Unifoliate (unifoliata): With a single leaf

See also


  1. ^ Mucronate, Answers.com, from Roget's Thesaurus.
  2. ^ "Cumulative Glossary for Vascular Plants". Flora of New South Wales. http://www.anbg.gov.au/glossary/fl-nsw.html. 
  3. ^ "palmate (adj. palmately)". GardenWeb Glossary of Botanical Terms. http://glossary.gardenweb.com/glossary/palmate.html. 


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