The leaves of Hilliardiella oligocephala grow on short stalks, spiralling densely around the stems. The leaf shape is elliptic to ovate. The base is broadly rounded, the apex obtusely pointed, but sometimes attenuating abruptly to an acute tip. Leaf dimensions are about 4 cm by 2,5 cm.
The leaf colour is dull to dark green above and thinly hairy to smooth, although not so dark in the photo. The lower surface has a dense, silvery and silky covering of hairs. The distinct difference between the two leaf surfaces contributes to species identification.
There is a clumsy common name reflecting this feature: bicoloured-leaved vernonia (the plant used to be called Vernonia oligocephala). Names don’t serve well when their burdens are excessive; a complaint children sometimes hold against their parents (Pooley, 1998; Van Wyk, et al, 1997; www.plantzafrica.com).