This plant/branch was part of a table decoration brought home from La Puente, CA, a week ago. It's been kept in a jar of water. I hope to:

  1. Learn the name(s) of this plant.
  2. Learn the correct morphology terms (not sure if I said that right) that apply to this plant/its leaves (e.g., about its shape, leaf base/tip/veins). I've looked at some leaf identification charts online but the ID'ing process is totally new to me so it's a little confusing.

Some notes about the accompanying images:

  • Images A and B --- The top leaf is kind of spiraled, and it has 3 "entire" leaf margins (they're smooth) and 3 surfaces. (Is there a morphology term that applies to the 3 surfaces?)

  • C, D, and E --- The leaf arrangement of the lowest 4 leaves seems to be "opposite" but then the other leaves above them seem to have an "alternate" or "alternate spiral" arrangement.

Here are the images: Image A and B. enter image description here enter image description here

Images C, D, and E. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Regarding Image A: any chance that is 2 leaves that are flattened against each other as they emerge and unfold? $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2022 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ If your goal is to learn the basic parts of a generic vascular plant, this is a bad example. As @BryanHanson's answer states, the wide, flat surfaces are cladodes, not leaves. The diagram included with the answer shows scale leaves, which can be seen in photos D & E; that means that the cladodes grew from the axillary buds of those scale leaves. Presence of an axiallary bud is normally the best clue to "is this a leaf?", but things get a bit confusing when the shoots take on this unusual morphology. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2022 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


Since you mentioned it was a table decoration, I searched "florist greenery" and found images very similar to what you have. Good chance it is from the genus Ruscus but you will have to compare your plant to online images to be sure. Wikipedia on Ruscus.

Note that Wikipedia mentions that what appears to be leaves are not actually leaves, but cladodes, a type of hybrid tissue. Wikipedia's entry summarizes a study on Ruscus aculeatus in particular (a molecular biology study, original here).

Looking at the paper linked above, Figure 2 (and others) show tiny "scale leaves" below each apparent leaf, and I think I can see these in your photos, but again, you will need to inspect more closely.

enter image description here


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