Common Leaf Edges For Plant & Tree Identification

leaf edgesA basic knowledge of common leaf edges will greatly help with the identification of plants.  Here are some of the common leaf edges you are likely to encounter.

In the Rocky Mountains there are hundreds of different trees, wildflowers and shrubs.  One of the tools that a junior naturalist should have to help identify all of those leafy green plants is a knowledge of leaf edges.  Combined with some other basic knowledge, such as common leaf arrangements, you will begin to be able to identify the common trees and wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains.

What Are The Leaf Edges

In short, leaf edges are just the side of the leaf.  If you have looked closely at different leaves you may have noticed that the edges, sides, or margins of leaves are not all the same.  Some of them are smooth and others seem to be sharp.

These common leaf edges are the terms that scientists use to describe the way that the leaf edge looks.  This is fairly simple, but it can get confusing because sometimes there are many ways to describe the same thing.  I will try to keep it simple here and will give you some of the other terms that mean the same thing.

Common Leaf Edges

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A smooth or entire leaf edge. Photo via Flickr.

Smooth – this is a basic leaf edge that is just smooth around the entire outside.  Another term for this is ‘entire’.

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A lobed leaf. Photo via Flickr.

Lobed – this is a leaf edge that goes in and out almost like steep, rolling hills.  A good example of a tree with lobed leaf edges is an Oak tree.

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Wavy or undulate leaf edge. Photo via Flickr.

Wavy – this is a leaf whose edge is like a rolling ocean that slowly goes up and down.  It is also called undulate

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Toothed edges on these leaves. Photo via Flickr.

Toothed – these leaves look sharp to the touch on the edges, as if there are lots of little teeth all along the side of the leaf.  This is also called serrate.  A Paper Birch or Siberian Elm tree have toothed edges.

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Doubly toothed or serrated leaf. Photo via Flickr.

Doubly Toothed – these leaves also look sharp to the touch.  The difference between this and toothed is that there are smaller teeth between the larger teeth on the edges of the leaves.  This is also called doubly serrate.