A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants.
Typically a leaf is a thin, flattened organ borne above ground and specialized for photosynthesis, but many types of leaves are adapted in ways almost unrecognisable in those terms: some are not flat (for example many succulent leaves and conifers), some are not above ground (such as bulb scales), and some are without major photosynthetic function (consider for example cataphylls, spines, and cotyledons).
Conversely, many structures of non-vascular plants, or even of some lichens, which are not plants at all (in the sense of being members of the kingdom Plantae), do look and function much like leaves. Furthermore, several structures found in vascular plants look like leaves but are not actually leaves; they differ from leaves in their structures and origins. Examples include phyllodes, cladodes, and phylloclades.
Famous quotes containing the word leaf:
“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”
—Walt Whitman (18191892)
“I will not speak of the famous beauty of dead women:
I will say the shape of a leaf lay once on your hair.
Till the world ends and the eyes are out and the mouths broken,
Look! It is there!”
—Archibald MacLeish (18921982)
“All over France, in every city there stand cathedrals like this one, triumphant monuments of the past. They tower over the homes of our people like mighty guardians, keeping alive the invincible faith of the Christian. Every arch, every column, every statue is a carved leaf out of our history, a book in stone, glorifying the spirit of France.”
—Sonya Levien (18951960)