"Leaves, fall from trees
but I believe,
there are better ways to fly
I have found paradise
in your beautiful eyes"
Touching down -

The smoke of autumn.
It's a smell you miss when you live in the Deep South. There is no hard freeze, no frost and so you don't have piles of leaves, and the wonderful musty smell of their burning. You can't walk around a college campus at dusk in October, breeze just cool enough for a jacket, and soak in the smell.

Maybe it will remind you of Halloween, or backyards full of tag and football. Maybe it will remind you of Homecoming, stolen kisses and first drunks, dizzy under the stars, dizzy in the smoke.

When I moved away from the South I will never forget that first fall back in the chill, back in the smoke.

Nostalgia, with moderate winds from the North, slightly cooler in outlying areas.


The subject of plant identification is vast, complex and probably extremely tedious to all but the most dedicated botanist. Sometimes however, it helps to know a little of the terminology used in describing the types and shapes of leaves. I will attempt it here, but by no means intend this to be a difinitive article, I'll try to keep it relatively simple.


Leaves have 2 parts, the petiole or stalk, and the leaf blade or lamina. The structure is often strengthened by a midrib and veins. Veins can be pinnate (alternating from a central midrib), palmate (where they radiate out from a single point at the base of the blade), or parallel (running lengthwise down the leaf).

Shape of leaf

  • Linear - much longer than it is wide, and roughly the same width throughout
  • Lanceolate - longer than it is wide but wider at the base than the tip
  • Oblanceolate - like lanceolate, but tapering at the base and wider at the tip
  • Oblong - roughly twice as long as broad, with near parallel sides
  • Elliptic - oblong but ends narrowing
  • Ovate - egg-shaped, broader at the base
  • Obovate - egg-shaped, broader at the tip
  • Cuneate - wedge shaped, broad at the tip
  • Spatulate - spoon shaped, oblong but tapering at the base
  • Needle-shaped - short, but long and pointed, as found in pines
  • Awl-shaped - like those on cacti, where the spines are the true leaves

Leaf edges or margins

  • Entire - smooth, even line
  • Serrate - sharp, saw-like teeth pointing forward
  • Dentate - toothed, but larger teeth pointing directly outwards
  • Crenate - teeth are short and rounded at the tip, scalloped
  • Undulate - leaf margin forms a wavy line
  • Sinuate - like undulate but much more wavy
  • Incised - cut into sharp, deep irregular incisions
  • Lobed - deep, rounded incisions, but not extending more than half way to the centre of the leaf
  • Cleft - like lobed but incisions extend beyond half way
  • Deeply lobed - very deep incisions, almost to the mid-rib or base of the blade

Leaf divisions

There are two main types of leaf, simple where the blade is in one piece and compound where the blade is made of a number of leaflets.
Compound leaves are subdivided into:

  • Pinnate - leaflets are arranged along the sides of a central leaf stalk, with or without an end leaflet
  • Bi-pinnate - the main leaflets are again divided into secondary leaflets
  • Palmate - the leaflets are arranged so that they spread out like fingers from a single point at the base of the leaf stalk.

Arrangement of leaves on stem

  • Basal or rosette- all leaves come from the base of the plant
  • Alternate - 1 leaf emerges at each leaf node, they are spaced alternately up the stem
  • Opposite - 2 leaves emerge from each node on opposite sides of the stem
  • Whorled - more than 2 leaves at a node, spaced around the stem

Leaf texture

  • Succulent - juicy, fleshy, soft, and thickened in texture.
  • Scabrous - rough to the touch; texture of sandpaper.
  • Coriaceous - leather-like, tough.
  • Smooth, (glabrous) - surface is not hairy, rough, pubescent, or scabrous.
  • Downy - covered with very short, weak, and soft hairs.
  • Pubescent - hairy.
  • Canescent - covered with gray or white soft hairs
  • Tomentose - covered with matted, woolly hairs.
  • Hirsute - pubescent with coarse, stiff hairs.
  • Hispid - rough with bristles, stiff hairs, or minute spines.

Leaves (?), n.,

pl. of Leaf.


© Webster 1913.

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