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Compound Leaf Identification

Author : Derek Farley

When spring arrives, it brings with it a multitude of different type's plants and flowers. From a distance the leaves may all look the same. Up on closer inspection, one will see that this is not so. Leaves of different species of plants will look very different from the next one. The following part of the article will explain those basic differences.

Studying the shape and size of a leaf is the primary way to identify a tree or plant. Most of us take it for granted that all leaves are the same except in shape and size. This is partially true. They come in 2 basic types, simple and compound. A simple type will generally be just one leaf of different size, attached to either a stem or a branch. A compound leaf on the other hand will be a cluster attached to a single stalk or twig. This type comes in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The 2 basic types of compound leaves are singly and doubly.

Identification of each type is easy. A singly type will have a certain number attached to a stem on either side. A doubly will have leaflets arranged on several branched leaflet stems. Walnuts and locust have singly compound leaves where as coffee plants and chinaberries have doubly compound. One thing to keep in mind for identification purposes of the 2 is that a detached doubly leaf can be mistaken for a singly leaf. This is why it is important to examine while still attached to the plant or tree, for proper identification of the correct variety.

Other forms of identification include seeing whether the leaf is a pinnate or palmate. A pinnate will have them on either side of the stalk grow symmetrically. A palmate will look like as the name suggests the shape of a palm. The leaves will grow out in a circle shape, somewhat resembling fingers attached to a palm. Compound leaves fall into more categories similar to simple leaves. They are fine toothed, coarse toothed, wavy edge, single toothed and double tooth.

Each one can be found arranged exactly opposite of each other on the stem, or they may be alternating from one to the next on each side of the stem. Staghorn sumacs have alternating compound leaf. Once you have this basic understanding, it will make it much easier to identify each type of tree or plant using its leaf and you will soon become an expert and impress your friends and family with your knowledge.

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You can get much more information and resources about leaf identification at leaf identification

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Tags:   compound, identification, different, leaf, look, plants, leaves

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Submitted : 2011-02-15    Word Count : 448    Times Viewed: 297