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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - June 25, 2009

From: Fleetwood, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Botanical name for a kidney-shaped leaf
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr Smarty Plants, I love the site.. but I was searching for id on this odd plant I have.. I have lived here a few years now, and have seen them before, never seemingly to have a flower..but as I let it grow more "wild" the leaves have gotten quite big. it's a kidney- bean shaped leaf.. but the ends of each lobe may very well come around far enough to touch each other under the spot where the leaf begins.. and I don't know what the proper name for that shape is. I have found several charts with leaf types, but none that match mine. the closest I have found was a word that gave me heart shaped leaves, and this "heart" would have had to have it's point shaved off.. but I am just getting too much kidney bean food in my search results no matter how hard I try. Can you please tell me a more "proper" name for this shape of leaf so my searches can find me better results??? thank you for your time.

ANSWER:

The shape I think you are looking for is reniform (kidney-shaped) but I'm not sure whether or not the stem for your leaf is attached at same side as the one in the illustration.  The other possibility (if the stem is attached to the other side of the kidney bean) is obcordate.  The leaflets of Oxalis sp. are obcordate.  Here are some photos of Utricularia reniformis (a Brazilian carnivorous plant) with reniform leaves.  There is a tiny plant native to Pennsylvania, Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot), that has reniform leaves, too.  Here are more photos of D. carolinensis. There is also a larger plant with reniform leaves native to Pennsylvania, Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger), that is a candidate for your plant.  It does have flowers but they are sometimes difficult to see since that grow down near the ground underneath the leaves.  Here are photos and a distribution map of A. canadense from the USDA Plants Database.

If wild ginger doesn't happen to be your plant, Mr. Smarty Plants loves to identify plants.  So, if you have, or can take, photos of your plants, you can send them to us and we will do our very best to identify them.  Please visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page for instructions on submitting photos.


Dichondra carolinensis

Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense

 

 

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