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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Identify the parts of a typical leaf
  • Describe the internal structure and function of a leaf
  • Compare and contrast simple leaves and compound leaves
  • List and describe examples of modified leaves

Leaves are the main sites for photosynthesis: the process by which plants synthesize food. Most leaves are usually green, due to the presence of chlorophyll in the leaf cells. However, some leaves may have different colors, caused by other plant pigments that mask the green chlorophyll.

The thickness, shape, and size of leaves are adapted to the environment. Each variation helps a plant species maximize its chances of survival in a particular habitat. Usually, the leaves of plants growing in tropical rainforests have larger surface areas than those of plants growing in deserts or very cold conditions, which are likely to have a smaller surface area to minimize water loss.

Structure of a typical leaf

Each leaf typically has a leaf blade called the lamina    , which is also the widest part of the leaf. Some leaves are attached to the plant stem by a petiole    . Leaves that do not have a petiole and are directly attached to the plant stem are called sessile    leaves. Small green appendages usually found at the base of the petiole are known as stipules . Most leaves have a midrib, which travels the length of the leaf and branches to each side to produce veins of vascular tissue. The edge of the leaf is called the margin. [link] shows the structure of a typical eudicot leaf.

 Illustration shows the parts of a leaf. The petiole is the stem of the leaf. The midrib is a vessel that extends from the petiole to the leaf tip. Veins branch from the midrib. The lamina is the wide, flat part of the leaf. The margin is the edge of the leaf.
Deceptively simple in appearance, a leaf is a highly efficient structure.

Within each leaf, the vascular tissue forms veins. The arrangement of veins in a leaf is called the venation    pattern. Monocots and dicots differ in their patterns of venation ( [link] ). Monocots have parallel venation; the veins run in straight lines across the length of the leaf without converging at a point. In dicots, however, the veins of the leaf have a net-like appearance, forming a pattern known as reticulate venation. One extant plant, the Ginkgo biloba , has dichotomous venation where the veins fork.

 Part A photo shows the broad, sword-shaped leaves of a tulip. Parallel veins run up the leaves. Part B photo shows a teardrop-shaped linden leaf that has veins radiating out from the midrib. Smaller veins radiate out from these. Right photo shows a fan-shaped ginkgo leaf, which has veins radiating out from the petiole.
(a) Tulip ( Tulipa ), a monocot, has leaves with parallel venation. The netlike venation in this (b) linden ( Tilia cordata ) leaf distinguishes it as a dicot. The (c) Ginkgo biloba tree has dichotomous venation. (credit a photo: modification of work by “Drewboy64”/Wikimedia Commons; credit b photo: modification of work by Roger Griffith; credit c photo: modification of work by "geishaboy500"/Flickr; credit abc illustrations: modification of work by Agnieszka Kwiecień)

Leaf arrangement

The arrangement of leaves on a stem is known as phyllotaxy    . The number and placement of a plant’s leaves will vary depending on the species, with each species exhibiting a characteristic leaf arrangement. Leaves are classified as either alternate, spiral, or opposite. Plants that have only one leaf per node have leaves that are said to be either alternate—meaning the leaves alternate on each side of the stem in a flat plane—or spiral, meaning the leaves are arrayed in a spiral along the stem. In an opposite leaf arrangement, two leaves arise at the same point, with the leaves connecting opposite each other along the branch. If there are three or more leaves connected at a node, the leaf arrangement is classified as whorled    .

Questions & Answers

what is biology
Dada Reply
The scientific study of life.
juanita
the virus that causes mumps in humans is composed of a protein outer Shell containing a core of DNA
Daniel Reply
Basic science and applied science question about cancer
Joyce Reply
what are the importance of ATPs
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How can biology be studied from a microscopic approach to a global approach
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The large central opening in the poriferan body is called
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You go for a long walk on a hot day. Give an example of a way in which homeostasis keeps your body healthy.
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You sweat.
juanita
sweating is your bodies way of keeping you from overheating.
juanita
Thank you
Joyce
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Neya Reply
biology is the study of life
IYANUYIMIKA
Biology is the study of Life
Brianna
is the branch of science which deals with the of living things.
Peter
what is metabolism
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Gyamfi
Describe the steps and results of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone National Park.
Natalia Reply
tag and release wolves into Yellowstone. wolves eventually reproduce and the pack grows. as wolves hunt they cull the sick and weak prey. the carcass that is left provides food for other species (scavengers and insect.. etc). this heals the circle of life and contributes to the biodiversity...
Will
before you know it species that are critical to the eco system return. having apex predators is crucial to an ecosystem... it helps run the deer and elk , etc around.
Will
example: there was a species of shrub/ plant that grows along river banks that moose love to eat.. the moose have no predator so they decimate that food source which also helps prevent erosion. when the wolves were reintroduced this changed. oddly enough this plant species started to repopulate in
Will
the areas where wolf feces sat and decayed
Will
which of the following statements about the parts of an egg are false?
Israel Reply
Monotremes include...?
Israel
medicinal plants including microbs
vijay Reply
,medicinal plants including microbes
vijay
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study of living organisms...
R0se
study of plants and animals
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what is abiotic and biotic factors?
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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