Leaf Shapes

This page is from the Northern Ontario Plant Database website.


The width of each basic leaf shapes can be described as narrowly- or widely-, depending on the degree of modification from the standard shapes. Plants with leaves that have more than one shape are called heterophyllous.

  • Linear - long and narrow, with essentially parallel margins.
  • Lanceolate - widest below the middle of the blade and 3 to 6 times as long as wide.
  • Ovate - widest below the middle of the blade and about 1.5 to 2 as long as wide.
  • Elliptic - widest at the middle of the blade, with curved margins and pointed apex and base.
  • Oblong - rectangular, with nearly parallel margins, about 2 times as long as wide.
  • Oval - widest at the middle of the blade, with curved margins and rounded apex and base.




  • Rhombic - diamond-shaped, widest at the middle and with straight margins.
  • Deltoid - triangular, shaped roughly like an equilateral triangle.
  • Oblanceolate - reverse lanceolate, widest above the middle of the blade.
  • Spatulate - spoon-shaped, basically oblanceolate, but with a narrow (attenuate) base.
  • Obovate - reverse ovate, widest above the middle of the blade.
  • Orbicular - circular, with rounded sides.


  • Scale-like - reduced in size, flat and sharp-pointed or blunt.
  • Subulate - awl-shaped, narrow and pointed, rounded in cross section.
  • Acicular - needle-like, very narrow and pointed, rounded in cross section.
  • Runcinate - oblanceolate with lacerate margins.
  • Fan-shaped - a leaf with the blade spreading out in a semi-circle.
  • Peltate - a leaf with the petiole attached near the centre of the undersurface of the blade.


  • Cordate - heart-shaped, with a pointed apex and 2 rounded basal lobes.
  • Obcordate - reverse heart-shaped, with a narrow base and 2 rounded apical lobes.
  • Reniform - kidney-shaped, with a broad rounded apex and 2 rounded basal lobes.


  • Sagittate - a leaf with pointed basal lobes directed downwards or inwards.
  • Hastate - a leaf with pointed basal lobes divergent or directed outwards.
  • Auriculate - a leaf with small rounded (ear-like) lobes at the base.
  • Lyrate - lyre-shaped, basically oblanceolate, with 2 or > pairs of smaller lower lobes.
  • Panduriform - fiddle-shaped, basically oblanceolate, with 2 small lower lobes.
© Tom Lebsack 2018