Tree ID by palmately lobed Leaf – Maples

Maples have palmately lobed leaves with 3 to 7 lobes that radiate out from a central point like the palm of a hand. This can best be seen by examining the main veins. Most have 5 lobes but some have 7 or more. Maples have opposite leaves and buds. Other trees have palmately lobed leaves but are not Maples. These trees have alternate leaves and buds. 

Tree ID by palmately lobed Leaf – 5 Maples (Field, Norway, Silver Japanese and Sycamore). Click on any photo to enlarge it. To go back to the Broadleaf Leaf Key click HERE. To go back to the Tree Identification Keys click HERE. Click on the tree names in blue to get a full description of the tree.

Click on More Maples to see information on 5 less common Maples –  Paper-bark, Box Elder, Cappadocian, Red Snake-bark and Red Maples

Field Maple lobed leaf

Field Maple

Sycamore five lobed leaf


Norway Maple lobed leaf

Norway Maple

Silver Maple lobed leaf

Silver Maple – The underside of the leaf is silver.

Japanese Maple 7 lobed leaf

Japanese Maple (7 or more lobes) 

On broadleaf tree leaves the leaf stalk is referred to as a petiole by botanists. The petiole connects the leaf to the shoot. If the leaf has no petiole and sits right on the shoot it is known as sessile. The leaf blade is divided down the centre by the midrib. This is the central or main vein of the leaf. The veins are tubes that carry water and nutrients to and from the leaf surface. The network of veins reaches every part of the leaf surface. The leaf blade is also referred to as the lamina. The edge of the lamina is called the leaf margin. The shape of the leaf is determined by how the margin and the veins develop and is under precise genetic control. 

The margin may be smooth, toothed or lobed. There are growth points along the margin which are aligned with veins. Smooth margins grow at a uniform rate  but toothed leaves have parts of the margin that are distant from the growth points and lag behind resulting in the formation of teeth. If the growth between the tips is inhibited even more, a lobe is formed. A lobe is a rounded or pointed segment of a leaf that is separated from other segments by a gap that does not reach the midrib of the leaf. Lobes may be arranged on either side of a central axis like a feather. This leaf is ‘pinnately lobed’, or lobes may spread radially from a point like a hand.This leaf is ‘palmately lobed’. If the gap reaches the midrib the leaf is ‘palmate’. If growth between tips is further inhibited a ‘pinnate’ leaf may be formed. This has individual leaflets arranged either side of a midrib like a feather.

The shape and colour of the leaf, the number and arrangement of the veins, the size and complexity of the teeth and the shape and arrangement of the lobes are genetically controlled and offer an excellent means of identifying trees.