Shrubs are often identified by their basic growth type (evergreen or deciduous) or their flowers, but leaves are also a defining feature on shrubs. Leaf types vary widely across the range of shrubs, from simple ovals to increasingly complex, compound leaves. Learn a few basic shapes and types of shrubbery leaves, then walk around your yard and garden to see how many you can find and identify.
A simple leaf is one that is a single, self-contained unit, branching directly off the main stem. It is not divided into smaller units or leaflets. Shrubs with simple leaves have a smooth, streamlined look.
Compound leaves are those that are divided into smaller units or leaflets; a leaf stem extends from the main stem of the shrub, and the individual leaflets grow in a pattern from that leaf stem. A compound leaf can be pinnate, palmate or bipinnate. A pinnately compound leaf has leaflets arranged on both sides, vertically, of the leaf stem. A palmately compound leaf has leaflets that extend in a fan-shape around the leaf stem. A bipinnately compound leaf will divide into more leaf stems growing out from the initial leaf stem, with leaflets on each of these secondary leaf stems.
Lobed leaves have a shape structure like a human hand: a main body, or palm, from which finger-like extensions or lobes extend. Lobed leaves can be irregular on a single shrub, with some having three lobes, some four and some five. Other shrubs will have more regulated lobed leaves, with the same number of lobes per leaf.
Non-lobed leaves are simple shapes; they do not have extensions or lobes, but are all simple variations on a basic oval shape. Variations include lanceolate, which has a broad base and a length greater than its width; ovate, which is egg-shaped; oblong, which is rectangular with rounded corners; elliptical, which is narrow at both ends; cordate, which is heart-shaped; and linear, which is along and narrow with parallel sides.