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:
“All is disgust when a man leaves his own nature and does what is unfit.”
—Sophocles (497406/5 B.C.)
“And then having ended this merry wedding,
The bride looked as fresh as a queen;
And so they returned to the merry greenwood,
Amongst the leaves so green.”
—Unknown. Robin Hood and Allen-a-Dale (l. 105108)
“Yet this aboundant issue seemd to me,
But hope of Orphans, and un-fathered fruite,
For sommer and his pleasures waite on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute.
Or if they sing, tis with so dull a cheere.
That leaves looke pale, dreading the winters neere.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)