How Can You Decide Whether Something is a Leaf or Not?
tomato sucker showing compound leavesSince roots and stems come in so many shapes, sizes, and manners of being, it's easy to guess that leaves do the same. In fact, the world of leaves is so varied, even downright weird sometimes, that it can actually be hard to figure out where a plant's leaves are. If you look at a maple tree's branch, it's easy to recognize that the leaf is the flat, green thing attached to the branch with a slender little stem-like item -- the leaf is the thing that turns colorful in the fall, and falls off. No problem there. On the other hand, are you sure where the actual leaves are on the tomato sprig in the picture at the right? Is what you see one or more leaves, or a division of just one leaf, or what?

Here are some hints that sometimes can help you decide whether the thing you're seeing is a leaf:

leaves showing bilateral symmetry

Leaf scales of Red Cedar, a kind of Juniper

Clearly, to dominate this leaf business you need to keep an open mind, and be ready for just about anything!