Many leaves have beautiful and interesting vein patterns. In fact, almost all of them have some kind of variation on one of nine vein patterns—with a few exceptions.
Here, I’ve created a chalk and charcoal drawing that depicts each one, which you can see below. They are arranged in alphabetical order.
Gallery of all 9 vein patterns
You can select an image to enlarge it, and toggle left or right to see the next or previous leaf vein pattern.
1. Arcuate Venation
In the first vein pattern, arcuate, the veins of the leaf arc outward from the central vein—also called the midrib. An important distinction of this vein pattern is the curve. Think of the “arc” part of the word “arcuate” and you’ll remember that this type of pattern has veins shaped in concentric arcs as they go up the leaf.
Arcuate venation is typically found in dicots, and leaves with this type of vein pattern usually also have reticulate veins.
Learn more about the Arcuate Venation drawing.
2. Dichotomous Venation
With dichotomous vein patterns, the leaf veins are all similar in size. There are no primary veins.
They branch into pairs regularly, fanning outward to the edge of the leaf. The ginkgo balboa leaf is an example of a plant with this kind of pattern.
Learn more about the Dichotomous Venation drawing.
3. Longitudinal Venation
With Longitudinal Venation, the vein patterns are pretty much exactly what you’d guess. Longitudinal veins run up and down, from the base to the tip of the leaf. Often these veins are connected to each other with transverse veins.
Many different kinds of leaves have longitudinal venation; in fact, many leaves have longitudinal veins along with some other type of vein pattern.
In this drawing, you actually see two types of veins: longitudinal veins (which go up and down), and transverse veins (which connect them to each other).
Here’s where you can learn more about the Longitudinal Venation example.
4. Palmate Venation
In the palmate leaf vein pattern, the veins radiate outward—much like the fingers from the palm of a human hand. A maple leaf is a great example of palmate venation, as are sycamore, yellow poplar, and sweetgum leaves.
Between the primary palmate veins is typically a network of reticulated veins.
Learn more about Palmate Venation.
5. Parallel Venation
In Parallel Venation, the veins run up and down a leaf parallel to one another.
Parallel Venation and Longitudinal Venation might seem like the same thing, but there’s a slight difference. It’s kind of like the difference between a square and a rectangle; all squares are rectangles, but only some rectangles are squares.
Likewise, all parallel vein patterns are longitudinal, but only some longitudinal vein patterns are parallel.
This is vein pattern is commonly found in grass, lillies, tulips, and some orchids. It’s typically associated with monocot plants (as opposed to dicots).
Learn more about the Parallel Venation vein pattern.
6. Pinnate Venation
A pinnate vein pattern is very similar to an arcuate one. The difference is that the veins don’t curve from the central rib—they flare outward in a formation that’s more parallel to one another. This is a very common pattern. If you asked a random person to draw a leaf, they’d probably create a drawing that uses pinnate venation.
Between the main pinnate veins are usually a network of reticulate veins connecting them to each other, or series of transverse veins (like in the drawing below) connecting them to each other.
Learn more about pinnate vein patterns.
7. Reticulated Venation
Reticulated venation is the web-like pattern you see in most leaves. It shows up in tandem with a lot of other vein patterns, including pinnate, arcuate, rotate, transverse, palmate, and even some longitudinal veins.
Find out more about the Reticulated Venation drawing.
8. Rotate Venation
Rotate Venation could be easy to confuse with a palmate vein pattern. The main difference is that the veins branch out from a location somewhere within the leaf, as opposed to a location at the edge of a leaf (like in palmate venation).
Check out more about Rotate Venation.
9. Transverse Venation
Transverse Venation includes little veins that connect large veins. They are somewhat similar to reticulate veins. Other names for this pattern include “cross veins” or “cross venulate.”
Learn more about Transverse Venation.
BONUS: Leaf vein drawings, remixed
With a little help from Joe Cavazos’ Photoshop plugin, REMIXER, I created album-cover–like versions of each vein pattern. Take a glance through to get a different look at each pattern.
Notes on these and other vein patterns
This list doesn’t include channeled venation—the type of veins you’d find in pine needles. The reason I didn’t create a drawing for it is that it’s so deep within the leaf that you can’t see it … at least not without slicing the leaf open, that is.
Also of note: I’m not a botanist, nor am I an expert on the scientific classifications of leaves. These drawings weren’t made from a foundation of academic rigor—just regular old curiosity.