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In botany, a leaf is an above-ground plant organ specialized for photosynthesis. For this purpose, a leaf is typically flat and thin, to expose the chloroplast containing cells  to light over a broad area, and to allow light to penetrate fully into the tissues. Leaves are also the sites in most plants where respiration, transpiration, and guttation take place. Leaves can store food and water, and are modified in some plants for other purposes. The comparable structures of ferns are correctly referred to as fronds.
As a stem grows, leaves tend to appear arranged around the stem in away that optimizes yield of light. In essence, leaves come off the stem in a spiral pattern, either clockwise or counterclockwise, with the same angle of divergence. 
Two basic forms of leaves can be described considering the way the blade is divided. A simple leaf has an undivided blade. However, the leaf shape may be one of lobes, but the gaps between lobes do not reach to the main vein. A compound leaf has a fully subdivided blade, each leaflet of the blade separated along a main or secondary vein. Because each leaflet can appear to be a "simple leaf", it is important to recognize where the petiole occurs to identify a compound leaf.

 



leaves-01.jpg (1843055 Byte) leaf leaves picture
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