What is a stipule spine

Difference between tendrils and spine

The Main difference that is between the tendrils and the spine Tendrils are slender, coiled parts of plants, which are often modified leaves, leaf parts, or stems, while the spine is a modified leaf, stipule, or part of the leaf that has a pointed end.

In addition to leaves, stems, and roots, plants have different types of structures. Tendrils and spines are two such structures. They can be modified leaves, leaf parts, stipules, petioles, or stems. Tendrils are thread-like in shape, while the spines have pointed ends. Tendrils support climbing plants to curl around a suitable host. Spines have a defensive function as they protect plants from herbivores.

1. Overview and main difference
2. What are tendrils?
3. What is spine?
4. Similarities between tendrils and spine
5. Side by side comparison - tendrils against the spine in tabular form
6. Summary

What are tendrils?

Tendril is a modified stem, leaf, or petiole with a thread-like shape. Tendrils help plants twist around a suitable host. They are also useful in attachment and cellular invasion. They revolve around suitable hosts by sensing touch. In other words, when tendrils come in contact with an object for a period of time, they usually curl around that object. Tendrils do not have a lamina or blade. However, they are green in color and can photosynthesize. In addition, tendrils are sensitive to chemicals. This ability helps them find the direction to grow. Stem and leaf tendrils can be seen in many climbing plants.

The stem tendril is a modified or specialized stem or terminal bud. The stem tendril grows with the help of the axillary bud. Stalk tendrils wrap around objects to stabilize the upward-growing plant. Stalk tendrils are common in passion fruit and grape wine. Stem tendrils can be branched or unbranched. There may be scale leaves on the stem tendrils. In addition, there are four types of stem tendrils: axillary, extraaxillary, opposite leaf and flowery bud or inflorescence tendrils.

Leaf tendril is a type of tendril that is formed from a whole leaf. They can also be formed from modified leaflets, leaf tips or secondary leaves. In some plants such as sweet peas and vicia, the leaf axis ends in a tendril to make climbing easier. In the flame lily, the tip of the blade extends into a tendril to support the plant. In addition, in garden peas the end leaf of the compound leaf turns into a tendril, while in some plants several leaves of the compound leaf turn into tendrils. In addition, in some other plants, the petiole turns into a tendril to hold on to.

What is a spine?

A spine is a tough extension with a pointed end. It is made for defense purposes. Spines are mainly modifications of leaves. All or part of the leaf turns into a spine. There are vascular tissues in the spine.

In prickly pear cactus, the tiny leaves of the axillary bud transform into spines. In the date palm, the tip of the leaf turns into a spine. In the case of barberries, the whole leaf has turned into a spine. In cacti, spines are completely transformed leaves that protect the plant from herbivores. In addition, spines can develop from the leaf margins. Roots and buds can also be turned into spines.

What are the Similarities Between Tendrils and Spine?

  • Tendrils and spines are found in plants.
  • They can form due to changes in leaves, roots, stems, or buds.
  • Both are important structures in plants.

What is the difference between tendrils and spine?

Tendrils are modified stems, leaves, or petioles with a thread-like shape, while the spine is a modified leaf, stipule, or part of a leaf with a pointed end. So this is the main difference between tendrils and spine. Functionally, tendrils are useful for climbing plants, mainly for support and fastening, while spines protect the plants from herbivores. Also, another difference between tendrils and the spine is that tendrils are sensitive to chemicals, while the spine is not sensitive to chemicals.

Summary - tendrils against the spine

Tendrils are modified leaves, leaflets, leaf tips, or leaf leaves that specialize in anchoring and supporting climbing plants. In contrast, the spine is a stiff, rigid structure with a sharp point that provides protection from herbivores. It can be a heavily modified leaf, a scale or a stipule. Structurally, tendrils are thread-like structures, while spines are sharp thorns. So this sums up the difference between tendrils and spine.


1. "Thorns, spikes, and prickles." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, September 25, 2019, available here.
2. "tendril." Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., August 23, 2016, available here.

Image courtesy:

1. "Vine" by Jon Sullivan - (public domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. "3573574" (CC0) via Pixabay