Identify Shrubs by Leaf

Trees and shrubs – or bushes, have been classified separately and if you have an avid interest for botanics or you simply like gardening, experience is an easy way to learn to differentiate between species.

When it comes to shrubs you should know that in general they grow up to 15 to 20 feet high – those shorter than 5 meters are categorized as subshrubs -, have mild or dense foliage and can be deciduous or evergreen. They can be identified by fruit, stems, branches, leaves or barks.

Identification by leaf is based on several aspects of leaf anatomy and position. Position means the arrangement of the leaves on branches, be them opposite, whorled, alternate or spiral. Leaf colour narrows the options, while the shape can refer to base – which can be cordate, rounded, truncate, obtuse, cuneate, or unequal (a good hint is the attachement point with the stem). The edges can be bumpy or smooth while the margin itself is dentate, undulate, crenate, doubly crenate, serrulate, lobed, spined or entire. The tip of the leaf is also a giveaway – with obtuse, truncate, acuminate, emarginated, mucronate or bristle shapes.

Establishing the leaf type (pinnate, double pinnate, palmate, scaled, needled or simple) can also give you a head start. For example, European Larch and Scots Pine have needle-like leaves, which are paired and clustered. Alder has oval leaves with pointed tips, while some like Hazel and Aspen have oval and rounded leaves. An interesting leaf is that of Horse Chestnut, which is compound and hand shaped.

double pinnate, European Larch, Horse Chestnut, identification by leaf, leaf anatomy, leaf colour, leaf type, needle-like leaves, needled, palmate, pinnate, scaled, Scots Pine, subshrubs, tip of the leaf