Diversity in leaf shape is produced by alterations of the margin: for example, deep dissection leads to leaflet formation and less-pronounced incision results in serrations or lobes. By combining gene silencing and mutant analyses in four distantly related eudicot species, we show that reducing the function of NAM/CUC boundary genes (NO APICAL MERISTEM and CUP-SHAPED COTYLEDON) leads to a suppression of all marginal outgrowths and to fewer and fused leaflets. We propose that NAM/CUC genes promote formation of a boundary domain that delimits leaflets. This domain has a dual role promoting leaflet separation locally and leaflet formation at distance. In this manner, boundaries of compound leaves resemble boundaries functioning during animal development.