A leaf is the principal lateral appendage of the vascular plant stem, usually borne above ground and specialized for photosynthesis. The leaves and stem together form the shoot. Leaves are collectively referred to as foliage, as in "autumn foliage". In most leaves, the primary photosynthetic tissue, the palisade mesophyll, is located on the upper side of the blade or lamina of the leaf but in some species, including the mature foliage of Eucalyptus, palisade mesophyll is present on both sides and the leaves are said to be isobilateral. Most leaves are flattened and have distinct upper and lower surfaces that differ in color, hairiness, the number of stomata, the amount and structure of epicuticular wax and other features. Leaves are mostly green in color due to the presence of a compound called chlorophyll that is essential for photosynthesis as it absorbs light energy from the sun. A leaf with white patches or edges is called a variegated leaf.
Leaves can have many different shapes, sizes, and textures. The broad, flat leaves with complex venation of flowering plants are known as megaphylls and the species that bear them, the majority, as broad-leaved or megaphyllous plants.