Different Tree Leaf Shapes

Updated February 21, 2017

Learning the various shapes of leaves can make the difference between identifying trees within your natural environment and making aimless observations of trees. Simple leaves exhibit an undivided blade versus compound leaves that have divided blades. Leaf functions include photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration, with the shape of the leaf supporting such processes for the tree. If you find yourself wandering through a wooded area or botanical garden, impress others with your knowledge of leaf forms to differentiate the surrounding nature.


Elliptical leaves, found on cherry trees, are shaped ovular like a football and are rounded at both the apex and base.


Lanceolate are long and narrow linear leaves found on willow trees. Black willow tree leaves are pointed at the apex versus willow oak tree leaves that are rounded at the apex.


Cordate leaves are shaped like a heart with an indented and round, symmetrical base and pointed apex. Eastern redbuds and royal paulownias and lindens grow cordate leaves.


Deltoid leaves are triangular in shape and found on aspens and cottonwoods. Deltoid leaves appear three-sides with a truncated base and abruptly pointed apex.


Hastate tree leaves, as found on the American Sycamore and red maple trees, resemble a spear with a middle lobe that extends longer than the two connected side lobes. Sycamore leaves have a rounded apex, while maple leaves have an abruptly pointed apex.


Ovate leaves are shaped like an egg, with a wide base that narrows toward the apex. Trees with ovate leaves include birches, beeches, elms, dogwoods, poplars and hollies.


Obovate-shaped leaves look the opposite of ovate leaves, with a wider apex that tapers into a narrow base. Such leaves are found on Ohio buckeyes, arrowwoods and blackhaws.


Acircular, or linear, leaves are needled-shaped and found on deciduous trees such as spruces, firs and pines.


Fan-shaped leaves are tapered at the base and flare outward at the apex, as in Ginko tree leaves.

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About the Author

Taylor DiVico is a professional songwriter, content writer, fiction novelist and poet with more than 15 years of experience. DiVico holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. from Syracuse University.