Leaf Types

All You Need to Know About Leaf Types

If you are a fan of the outdoors, or even just go out there every now and then, then there is a good chance you have been curious about the various leaf types out there. Trees are gorgeous and stunning relics of nature that fill our world with an interesting diversity. There are hundreds of types of trees, and hundreds of styles, differences, and variations in their leaves that make identifying leaves and trees a favorite pastime of many. This article will help you identify leaf types so you too can enjoy this facet of the great outdoors.

The first way to categorize leaf types is to look at the type of tree itself. There are two broad categories botanists use to define trees. Trees can be either conifers (which means they bear cones), or angiosperms (which means they bear flowers). The first type, conifers, are typically called “evergreen” because they do not go through the flowering and blooming process like angiosperms. Rather, their seeds are produced via cones. The most well-known type of a conifer is your basic pine tree. We do not typically say that conifers have leaves; rather, we call them needles, because of their shape. When we talk about leaves, we usually are referring to angiosperm.

What types of angiosperms are there? Basically, any tree you can come up with, other than conifers, is an angiosperm. While there are three other types of trees (ferns, ginkgoes, and cycads), angiosperms are by and large the most dominant type other than conifers. Typical angiosperms include birch, maple, oak, apple, magnolia, dogwood, willow, tupelo, elm, poplar, and hickory trees. The leaves of these trees will now be discussed below.

There are many ways to classify types of leaves. You can distinguish them by how many blades they have, or how the blades are attached, or even if they are symmetrical or asymmetrical. You can also determine which is which based on the size, shape, and color of the leaf itself. The best way to start off is to determine if the leaf is simple or compound. A simple leaf, like a beech leaf, consists of a blade that does not branch off with other blades. A compound leaf, like that of a hickory tree, has multiple blades from the same stem.

Another way to divide up leaves is to look at how they are set up or arranged on the twig (the wooden connector that attaches to the branch). Some leaves are arranged in an alternating style, i.e. they are not symmetrical. One example is a black willow tree. Other leaves are arranged so that there is one on the opposite side of another, like a mirror arrangement. A good example of one of these trees is a maple tree.

Yet another way to categorize trees is based on the shape of the leaf itself. We usually picture something like a maple tree (think of the Canadian flag) when we hear the word leaf, but there can be other shapes as well. Some types of trees, such as the maple, have multiple tips and edges and mini-blades called leaflets on them. (Note that the maple is not a compound leaf, but is a simple one, just a simple one with multiple leaflets). Others are in an oval, raindrop, or teardrop shape.  Leaves that have shapes like maples tend to be bigger than leaves with simple shapes, but as with anything else in nature, there are always exceptions.

I hope that you found this article on leaf types informative. Perhaps your next trek or hiking expedition into the woods – or even just a quick trip to your backyard – will have you looking skyward to these majestic and awe-inspiring creations to see the beauty that their leaves have to offer.