The Anatomy of Leaves in 5 Minutes

As I sit typing here I am looking at my bunch of bluebells and debating on the leaf structure (my guess is basal, simple leaves).  As previously mentioned, I am taking a course on local flora taught by Dr. H____, of the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

I hope that he will not mind my sharing with my blog readers some of what we are learning this semester about flora:

Leaves have three basic structures along the stem of a plant.  They can be:

  • more or less parallel, “opposite”
  • they can alternate
  • they can also cluster together in what’s called a “whorl” but which reminds me of a spiral pattern.

They also have two basic structure types:

  • simple — a single leaf that can have either smooth edges or rough edges (serrated or denate depending on the slant of the leaf edge).
  • complex — a leaf with multiple leaves in it, officially, they’re called “leaflets”.  Based on the structure, it can be either a palm-like leaf, known as a “palmate” or a feather-like structure, called a “pinnate”.

Oh, and something else kind of neat…apparently the stem of the leaf that attaches to a twig or branch is called a “petiole“.  Okay, so now you’ve got a basic idea of some of the elements of leaf structure.

It’s a beautiful weekend.  Go for a walk.  I would encourage anyone in the area to stop by the gardens and check out the wonderful array of blooms in season.  As a follow-up, I may also be adding a media gallery to this site of images gathered from my visits to the gardens!


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