The most distinctive morphogenetic feature of leaves is their being either simple or compound. To study the basis for this dichotomy, we have exploited the maize homeobox-containing Knotted-1 (Kn1) gene in conjunction with mutations that alter the tomato compound leaf. We show that misexpression of Kn1 confers different phenotypes on simple and compound leaves. Up to 2000 leaflets, organized in compound reiterated units, are formed in tomato leaves expressing Kn1. In contrast, Kn1 induces leaf malformations but fails to elicit leaf ramification in plants with inherent simple leaves such as Arabidopsis or in tomato mutant plants with simple leaves. Moreover, the tomato Kn1 ortholog, unlike that of Arabidopsis, is expressed in the leaf primordia. Presumably, the two alternative leaf forms are conditioned by different developmental programs in the primary appendage that is common to all types of leaves.