The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names

By Mary Smith. Updated: March 1, 2017
The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names

Leaves "transpire" 24 hours a day to remove excess water and diluted nutrients absorbed by the roots. This is important as it aids the process of photosynthesis, allowing for the survival of not just the plant, but the human race. Some plants transpire more than others, for example the corn plant (dracaena fragrans) can transpire up to two liters of water per day, whereas sunflowers only 1 liter. Although there 2 main types of leaves, simple leaf with a single blade or a compound leaf with separate leaflets, the lead margins can vary greatly and these margins can affect transpiration. oneHOWTO is here to show you the different leaf margins and their names so you can show off the next you go walking in the countryside.

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Entire margin

The entire margin leaf has no serrated edges, and is composed by one continuous, smooth surface around the whole edge of the leaf.

This kind of leaf edge can come in several shapes such as linear (picture), deltoid, eliptical, ovate and more. The picture below is a eucalyptus leaf which are eaten by many animals, but are particularly known for their association with possums and koalas. If the leaf margins were not entire and therefore smooth, it might be more difficult for these animals to consume them.

The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names - Entire margin

Serrate margin

This is a leaf with serrated or toothed edges which point upwards, like the viola or mint leaf. It is the most common type of leaf, as it brings more of the leaf's surface into contact with the air and so facilitates photosynthesis.

There are several types of serrated leaf depending on the shape of the saw:

  • Finely serrated: these are characterized by having a very fine serration and are often also called serrulated. Sometimes they are even hard to see with a naked eye.
  • Coarsely serrated: These are the standard serrate leaves that will have their teeth pointing upwards.
  • Doubly serrated: These leaf margins have sawed ends within the serrate edge, like a kind of sub-teeth. These can be seen in plants like nettles.

If the serrate leaf margins are sharp, as can be found on some cactus plans, it is possible that the serration is not just for photosynthesis. It is likely that they are there to deter animals which feed on them. One of the most famous serrated margins of a leaf is present on lighters, beanies and posters in student dorms all over the world: the marijuana leaf.

The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names - Serrate margin

Dentate margin

Edges scalloped with straight points, like the common brown chestnut, are called dentate leaves. They can be simple leaves or compound leaves, the one in the image being another ype of chestnut leaf where you can see the dentate leaf margins on the different parts of the one leaf. In comparison with serrate leaf margins, which they do resemble, you will see that the dentate leaf margin has symmetrical teeth on both sides of the leaf.

The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names - Dentate margin

Lacerate or lobed margin

Lacerate or lobed leaf margins are characterized by their rounded lobed edges, like little ear lobes which go around the leaf margins. Their nervations come from the center of the leaf and often have a serrated base. The oak leaf has a lobed leaf margin and can be very beautiful.

The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names - Lacerate or lobed margin

Sinuate or undulate margin

Sinuate or undulate leaves are plants with a trunk and winding branches, often with thorns. They also have large, oval leaves (can reach around 10 to 15 centimeters wide). The leaf margin of a sinuate leaf has slightly jagged edges and is often confused with a lobed leaf, but you just need to look closely.

The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names - Sinuate or undulate margin

Crenate margin leaves

Crenate leaves are quite similar to undulate leaves, with the difference that these have an even edge pointing upwards, as do serrate margin leaves. They have a scalloped margin.

The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names - Crenate margin leaves

Pointing out these different types of leaves by understanding their leaf margins might make you look smart, but it can also help you to avoid certain problem plants like poison ivy or work out which plants you have in your garden which are weeds so that you can remove them.

If you want to read similar articles to The Different Leaf Margins and Their Names, we recommend you visit our Gardening & plants category.

  • The types of margin of leaves apply to the shape of their edge.

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If weeds do not have Entire, Serrate, Dentate, Lacerate, Lobed, Sinuate, undulate or Crenate margin leaves, how does one identify them?
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