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 leaves:
“I compare her
to a fallen leaf.
The noiseless wheels of my car
rush with a crackling sound over
dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.”
—William Carlos Williams (18831963)
“Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat
A brook to none but who remember long.”
—Robert Frost (18741963)
“I do not see why, since America and her autumn woods have been discovered, our leaves should not compete with the precious stones in giving names to colors; and, indeed, I believe that in course of time the names of some of our trees and shrubs, as well as flowers, will get into our popular chromatic nomenclature.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)