Seed Swaps

Sixtyfive words to describe leaves

18 Jan 2009
-1°C / 30°F

Against the lack of colour, against the greys, browns, inky blues and white, mostly dirty whites, of winter, I am thinking and reading about leaves, foliage.

Leaves evolved before flowers. I suppose they were plants like ferns and horsetails which don’t reproduce sexually but with spores. Dicotyledons, seedlings with two leaves, probably preceded monocotyledons, seedlings producing one leaf such as grasses, with parallel veins in usually elongated narrow leaves. Dicots are netted with veins and come in a great variety of shapes as David Joyce in ‘Foliage; Dramatic and subtle leaves for the garden’ points out. He organizes his discussion in the most delightful and accessible way by describing shape, texture, colour and finally the arrangement of leaves on a plant in a series of evocative adjectives. These are David Joyce’s 65 words to describe leaves:
Shapes – simple geometry; hearts and kitneys; eggs and spoons; straps and ribbons; lances and arrows; swords and blades; needles and threads; notches and lobes; toothed and prickly; compounds; hands and fans; feathers and filigree; leaf flowers; giants and miniatures.
Textures – glittering and sheeny; tough and leathery; waxy and succulent; veined, quilted and pleated; hairy and bristly; silk, satin and velvet; woolly and felted; waved twisted and curled. Colours – rich and dark greens; light and soft greens; yellow to gold; grey to blue; pinks, reds and purples; metallic lustres and tones; cool variegation; warm variegation; speckled, spotted and mottled; margins and undersides.
The plants – canopies; cones and pyramids; tiers and cascades; domes and mounds; tufts and clumps; rosettes; mats and carpets; pencils and columns; shuttlecocks and fountains.
Joyce lists a selection of trees, shrubs, perenials and annuals under each set of adjectives, and the pictures are amazing. Not only will I take closer notice of leaves in future, but I will lie and remember leaves to match all of his descriptions – much more calming than counting sheep.

Photos: snowscapes from my walk down to the studio yesterday or what they don’t show on Christmas cards. The apparent sculpture on the surface of the snow bank must be made by the snow plow.



The ice sculpture may be everyday to you, but I find it alien and beautiful!

Now, you know you have to explain what eggs and spoons leaves could possibly be…

Posted on 19 Jan 09 (over 9 years ago)

This is a wonderful post. Clever of you to focus on something positive in such nasty weather.

Posted on 19 Jan 09 (over 9 years ago)

@Netto ‘Eggs’ are ovate (ie. egg-shaped) leaves with the stalk attached at the broad end, ‘spoons’ are the reverse with the stalk attached at the thin end. Joyce is obviously having lots of fun with words. I don’t know what Aussie plants would fit into these catagories.

Posted on 19 Jan 09 (over 9 years ago)

Got it! With the stem at the top, the ‘spoons’ are a bit like pears and the ‘eggs’ a bit like hearts.
I just loved her categories and choices of descriptions.
It would be hard to think of Aus natives with similar leaves. Broad leaves aren’t very common (at least in where I live).

Posted on 21 Jan 09 (over 9 years ago)

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Revelstoke BC


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