Difference Between Simple and Compound Leaves

The difference primarily between simple and compound leaves is that in simple leaves there is a single leaf blade and incision which do not split the leaf blade whereas, in compound leaves, the incision is deep such that it splits the leaf blades into leaflets. Due to differences in the shape and arrangement in leaves, they can be categorized into simple and compound leaves.

Simple Leaves

  • Some common plants exhibiting simple leaves are Hibiscus, Maples, Oregano, pear plants, Sycamore and many more
  • In simple leaves, the leaf is joint to a stem via petiole with no subdivisions. The true leaf is attached directly to the tree-bud

Compound Leaves

  • Some plants depicting compound leaves are Neem, Rose, Baobab and many more. Here apart from the main leaf, it has several leaflets attached to the stem via the petiole depicting the complete division of the leaf blade or the lamina along with the midvein. Stems which show such arrangement are known as rachis, that is the modified mid-vein
  • Classified into – Pinnately Compound leaves and Palmately Compound leaves.
  • Pinnately Compound leaves – leaflets emerge from both sides of the midrib and are further classified into three pinnate arrangements – unipinnate, bipinnate and tripinnate
  • Unipinnate arrangement – regular arrangement of leaflets through the midrib
  • Bipinnate arrangement – shows the presence of secondary rachis in addition to the regular rachis
  • Tripinnate arrangement – the substitution of the primary rachis in the bipinnate arrangement with bipinnate leaflets
  • Palmately Compound Leaf – leaflets emerge from only one point such as a palm. Furthermore, this arrangement can be classified into – unifoliate, bifoliate, trifoliate, and quadrifoliate.

Difference Between Simple and Compound Leaves

The table below depicts some important differences between Simple Leaves and Compound Leaves


Simple Leaves

Compound Leaves

What it means

Leaves in which the leaf blade or lamina is undifferentiated into lobes

Leaves which show proper differentiation of lamina or leaf blade into leaflets

Leaf arrangement

Acropetal succession

Do not make acropetal succession type of arrangement of leaflets


Single blades

Have leaflets which are smaller and separate leaf blades

Axillary buds

Bud is observed in the axil

Buds are observed in the leaf axil but each leaflet does not have axil


Present at the base of the leaf

Present at the base of the leaf, absent in other additional structures

Division in lamina

No division

Lamina divided into more than two leaflets that arise either at the petiole tip or on the side of a rachis

Observed in

Guava, black cherry trees, different types of oaks, black gum trees

Neem, Rose, Buckeye, Shame plant

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