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Shrub leaf identification

Updated July 19, 2017

In order to correctly identify a shrub you have to carefully look at the leaves. Shrub leaves come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and arrangements.

Leaf Shapes

Leaves come in a wide variety of shapes. Some are long and narrow--linear leaflike a willow leaf. Others are shaped like an open hand--palmate shape--like Japanese maple leaves.

Leaf Color and Texture

Colour and texture can change between varieties and/or species. For example, holly plants are known for their glossy, smooth solid green leaves. Some holly plant varieties, however, have variegated leaves with white and green or yellow and green leaves.

Leaf Tops and Bases

Sometimes the top (apex) or base of the leaf is very distinct. Look at the shape of the leaf at the top and how the leaf attaches to the stem at the base.

Leaf Margins

The edges of the leaf can be smooth or have rounded bumps, huge lobes or toothed edges. Currants have lobed leaves with toothed edges.

Leaf Arrangement

Leaves can be directly opposite other leaves or alternate other leaves on stems or produce a whorl, or circle, of leaves around the stem. Stag's horn sumac has opposite leaves.

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About the Author

Cecile LeBlanc, from Flagstaff, Ariz., has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has been published in the “Arizona Daily Sun” and “Flagstaff Business News” newspapers and “Mountain Living” magazine and “Scholastic Science Magazine.” She has an M.S. degree in ecology from U.C. Davis.