9 Interesting Difference between Simple and Compound Leaves with Comparison Table

What is the difference between simple and compound leaves?

Simple and compound leaves are the two main types of leaves common in dicot plants. They play a vital role in the lifespan of a plant.

The lesson provides the difference between simple and compound leaves based on the leaf blade, petiole, and stipule in tabular form. Take the time to find out:

Difference between Simple and Compound Leaves

Simple Leaf Definition?

A simple leaf is a single unit of undivided leaf blade that is broad and attached to the stem through a petiole. The margin of the leaf tends to be smooth, lobed, and parted.

The gap between the lobe is never continuous to the midrib of the leaf instead each leaf has a lateral bud at its base.

Examples of plants with simple leaves include maple, sweetgum, sycamore, elm, oak, cherry, and, birch. Most of the North American trees have simple leaves.

Compound Leaf Definition?

A compound leaf is a collection of leaflets that are attached to midrib separately through rachis (also known as short stems).

The lateral buds tend to occur at the base of the compound leaves where the petiole attaches to the stem.

Examples of plants with compound leaves include rose leaves, hickory leaves, pecan, ash or walnut tree leaves.

The good news about compound leaves is that they are further subdivided into:

Pinnately Compound Leaf

The kind of compound leaf is the one which has leaflets that arise from both sides of the midrib. The leaf can either be evenly paired or oddly paired.

Mahogony, Tamarind, and Candle are some of the examples of plants with pinnately compound leaves.

Palmately Compound Leaf

The compound leaf occurs where the leaflets arise from a single point like a palm. The arrangement of this leaf is further subdivided into unifoliate, bifoliate, trifoliate, and quadrifoliate. 

Examples of plants with palmately compound leaves are Citrus maxima, Citrus limon, Bauhinia Yunnanensis, Clover, Oxalis, Marsilea, buckeye and horse chestnut. Most of these plants are common in North America.

Bipinnately Compound Leaf

The compound leaf has leaflets that arranged along a secondary vein. A good example of a plant with bipinnately compound leaves is a silk tree. Other examples are Mimosa pudica and Honeylocust.

Comparison Chart: Simple Leaf vs Compound Leaf

Basic Terms Simple Leaf Compound Leaf
Meaning A single unit of the leaf that is undivided at the midrib but attached to the stem through the petiole. A collection of leaflets attached to the stem through a short stem.
Stipules At the base of the leaf At the base of the whole leaf
Lateral Bud Occur at the base of the petiole Do not have lateral buds
Leaf Blade Not divided at all into leaflets Tend to be divided at the midrib into leaflets
Division in Lamina No division There is a division of lamina
Examples Maple, Black Cherry, Guava, Oak, Mango Neem, Rose, Buckeye, Shame Plant
Arrangement Leaves are arranged in acropetal succession. Leaves not arranged in acropetal succession.
Edges or margins Tend to be either parted, smooth, Jagged or lobed. Leaflets tend to be either smooth, jagged, Parted, lobed, or rolled.
Attachment Joined to a twig by petiole or Its stem. Leaflets attached with the middle vein and have their own stalks.

Core Difference between Simple and Compound Leaves In Point Form 

  1. Simple leaves have a single leaf blade while compound leaves have several leaflets with smaller leaf blades.
  2. Simple leaves have lateral buds at the petiole while compound leaves do not have lateral buds.
  3. Compound leaves have a division of lamina whereas simple leaves do not have.
  4. Stipules are present at the base of the simple leaf while compound leaf at the base of the whole leaf.

Similarities between Simple and Compound Leaves

  1. Both occur on dicot plants
  2. Both help in the synthesis of food for plants
  3. Both leaves show some adaptations to the habitat.
  4. Both have lamina, petiole, and stipule.

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Comparison Video


Simple leaves have a single lamina and it tends to be broader while compound leaves have leaflets with divided lamina and tend to be narrower.

The lesson provides information on the difference between simple and compound leaf in tabular form for easier understanding.

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