Glossary
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Plant Terminology Glossary

acaulescent
Without a stem. Refers to plants that have no central stem or only a very short stem so that all the leaves are basal. The flower may be on an erect peduncle but this will have no real leaves.

achene
Small one-seeded, thin walled, indehiscent fruit smaller than a nut.

acuminate
A leaf tip that narrows at the end to a tapering point.

acute
A leaf tip which tapers evenly to a point.

alluvial
Deposited by water as in soil (alluvial soil) or areas of such soil.

annual
Completing a life cycle in one season or year. Annual plants produce seed in one season of growth then die. See; perennial, biennial, monocarpic

anther
The pollen bearing parts of a stamen.

arrow shaped
Blades shaped more of less like an arrow head.

assending
Curved upward.

auricle
A small lobe (ear) at the base of a leaf or other organ.

berry
All fruits with fleshy walls and multiple seeds.

biennial
Somwhat of a misnomer seeming to mean a plant that completes a life cycle in two years. It actually is often applied to plants that generally take more than one season or yearly cycle to complete a life cycle. Basically the term applies to plants that die at the end of a life cycle (they die after they produce seeds) but don't complete that cycle in one season. Many plants take an indeterminate number of years to complete the growth necessary to reproduce. See; perennial, annual, monocarpic

bract
Small leaf, particularly those at the base of flowers or pedicels.

bulb
A rounded, usually underground structure with thick, fleshy concentric layers or scales merging into the stem at the top and roots at the bottom. See corm.

calyx
The sepals. The outer set of flower parts. They sometimes look like leaves and in some plants like petals and sometimes form a tube.

capsule
A dehiscent fruit with more than one carpel.

carpel
A simple pistil (modified leaf) or a single section of a compound pistil.

ciliate
Having hairs on the margin (edge).

clasping
Enclosing the stem at least partly.

clavate
Shaped like a club.

cleistogamous
Flowers that self-fertilize without opening

cordate
Heart shaped.

corm
An enlarged underground structure consisting of stem tissue and thin scales. Similar to a bulb.

corolla
The petals (or petal) that make up the flower. These may be united into a tube or other structure.

corona
Literally a crown. The crown like structures present in some flowers between the petals and stamens.

corymb
A flat toped or rounded inflorescence with the outer most flowers on the longest stalks.

crenate
Edge with rounded teeth.

crepuscular
Active at dawn or dusk. See nocturnal, diurnal.

crispate
Irregular and wrinkled.

cuneate
Triangular with the long point toward the base

cyathium
The cup shaped inflorescence of the plants in the genus Euphorbia.

cyme
A flower cluster of limited size in which the terminal flower blooms first.

decumbent
Bent over or prostrate at the base but becoming erect in the upper parts.

decurrent
Extending down from the point of insertion as when the edges of a leaf continue down the stem forming wings on the stem.

deflexed
Turning downward or backward.

dehiscent
Opening to release contents as a seed pod or anther.

deltoid
Shaped like a triangle.

dentate
Toothed with point outward directed.

dioecious
Male and female flowers borne on separate plants.

disk
The center of composite flowers (the Asteraceae family) made up of a cluster of disk flowers, which are the true flowers, and usually surrounded by rays.

dissected
A division deeper than a lobe but, in the case of a leaf, not enough to make the leaf divided. A somewhat vague term usually referring to a leaf that is has many narrow segments.

diurnal
Active during the day. See crepuscular, nocturnal.

divided
Leaves which have separate leaflets or have divisions between lobes that extent to near the leaf stem.

drupe
A fleshy fruit with a hard center usually containing a single seed such as a peach.

drupelet
A very small drupe. Usually in a cluster such as the fruit of a raspberry.

elliptic
Shaped like an ellipse.

entire
Leaves with smooth edges.

epipetric
Growing on rock.

epiphytic
Growing on other plants, usually trees or shrubs, but not parasitic.

fenestrate
With small slits or window like openings or areas so thinned as to be translucent.

filament
The part of a stamen that supports the anther. Commonly a very slender tube.

floccose
Having tufts of long soft hairs often matted.

follicle
A single chambered fruit that splits along a single seam to release the seeds.

funnelform
Shaped like a funnel. Widening gradually from the base.

glabrous
Lacking hairs or other protuberances.

glandular
Having glands.

glaucous
Surface with a fine white coating that rubs off easily.

habit
The overall appearance of a plant, stem, leaves and so on. Not to be confused with habitat.

habitat
The environment in which an organism exists. Climate, moisture, soil, sunlight, elevation and so on.

hemiparasitic
A plant that is both parasitic and also photosynthesizes. Sometimes spelled semiparasitic.

herbaceous
Like a herb. Used here to refer to flowering plants that are not vines, shrubs, trees or succulents. Generally used to refer to plants that die back to the ground every year. Also spelled 'herbacious'.

hypanthium
A floral part present in some plants that is just below or almost totally encasing the ovulary. The showy flower parts; petals, stamens and sepals emerge from the upper edge of the hypanthium if it is present.

imperfect
Flowers having either stamens (male) or pistils (female) but not both.

indehiscent
Not opening at maturity.

indistinguishable
Used here to describe flowers that are to small to distinguish the individule parts (petals or bracks) with the unaded eye.

indusia
The membrane that covers (partly or completely) or subtend the sorus. Often thin or scale like.

inflorescence
A flower or fruit cluster including axis or bracts but not vegatative leaves.

involucre
The bracts whorled close to the base of a flower or flower cluster.

irregular
Flowers which are not radially symmetrical. The petals may be unlike each other in shape, size and / or color. Often they have upper and lower parts called lips. Do not confuse this term with the term "Indistinguishable".

lacerate
An irregular edge as if cut or torn.

lamina
The expanded portion of a leaf or petal.

lanate
Wooly with long curled or wavy hairs (trichomes).

lanceolate
Shaped like a lance blade. That is, pointed, much longer than wide and widest below the middle.

linear
Long and narrow. Literally, like a line.

lip
The upper or lower protruding part part of a irregular flower (corolla or calyx).

lobed
Leaves which have one or more indentations (deeper than the ones it may have if it is toothed) which devide the leaf into lobes. Lobes only at the base of the leaf do not count.

monocarpic
Fruiting only once then dying. Usually applied to perennials that live for years before flowering, setting seed and dying. May describe annuals or biennial as well.

monoecious
Having imperfect flowers with both male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers borne on the same plant.

monotypic
Having only one taxa.

nocturnal
Active or blooming during the night. See diurnal, crepuscular.

oblanceolate
Like lanceolate except widest beyond the middle.

obovate
Oval leaf widest near the tip.

obtuse
A blade tip that is rather blunt.

opposite
Two leaves per node that emerge from the stem directly oppsite from each other one on either side of the stem.(see whorled)

ovate
Egg shaped outline with the widest part toward the base.

palate
An appendage or raised area on the lower lip of the corolla that at least partly blocks the throat.

palmate
Arranged in a radial pattern. Like fingers from a palm.

panicle
A loose branching flower cluster with at least one branch between the peduncle and the pedicels

pappus
In composite flowers the part of the individual disk and ray flowers that surrounds the flower at the base as calyx does in a regular flower. They may be like bristles teeth or scales and are usually to small to see with the unaided eye.

pectinate
Like a comb. Having a row of long, narrow appendages (teeth, hairs) of more or less uniform size.

pedicel
The stalk of a single flower or fruit.

peduncle
The flower stalk or tendril that may support a cluster of flowers or the single flower.

peltate
A leaf or other structure having a stalk attached not at the margin as in most leaves but toward the center.

perennial
A plant that doesn't die after one life cycle. Often defined as a plant that lives more than one year. See; annual, biennial

perfoliate
A leaf that completely surrounds the stem so that the stem appears to perforate or pass through the leaf.

pericarp
The outer wall of mature fruit.

petal
A single segment of the corolla.

petiole
The stalk or stem of a leaf. Completely absent in some leaves.

phyllary
In the Composite (Asteraceae) family a single bract of the involucre.

pilose
Having soft, straight hairs.

pilosulose
Having minute, straight, soft hairs.

pinna
One of the primary divisions of a pinnate leaf.

pinnate
A leaf shape where leaflets or lobes are arranged on either side of a central axis or petiole.

pinnatifid
Lobed deeply but not all the way to the axis.

pistil
The central organ of a flower containing the ovules. The female part of a flower.

plumose
Like a plume. Feathery

pod
A dehiscent fruit.

pseudobulb
A thickened place in the stem of an orchid just above the ground or roots which resembles a bulb.

pteridophyte
Any vascular plant that produces spores for reproduction rather than seeds. Ferns, club mosses and horsetails are common examples.

puberulent
With soft, short, fine hairs. Slightly pubescent.

pubescent
With short soft hairs.

raceme
A flower cluster with the flowers on short pedicels which are arrainged along a central stem.

range
The geographical area in which a species can normally be found in the proper season.

rare
Hard to find or unusual efen within its normal range and habitat.

recurved
Curved upwards.

reflexed
Curving or bent backwards.

regular
Flowers that are radially symmetrical. That is the petals or rays are all about the same size and shape and are arraneged around the center in an even pattern. The petals may be joined into a tube or have separate rays.

reniform
Kidney shaped. Rounded with a notch at the base.

repand
With a margin that is slightly or shallowly wavy. Slightly sinuate.

rhizome
Horizontal underground stem. Commonly refered to as roots because they are underground they act functionally as stems and the true roots emerge from the rhizome.

rhombic
In the shape of a diamond.

saprophytic
A plant that lives on dead organic matter such as rotting tree roots. These plants often have no need for chlorophyll thus are not at all green.

scabrous
Having a coarse surface due to the structure of the surface or short stiff hairs. Rough to the touch.

scape
A flowering stem with no leaves.

sepals
Floral leaf that occurs outside the petals. Often green they sometimes are colorful and mimic petals. Together they form the calyx.

serrate
Toothed with the teeth pointing away from the stem or base.

sessile
Having no stalk.

silique
Elongated seedpod.

sinuate
A margin that is strongly wavy.

soprangia
Case containing spores.

sorus
Cluster of sporangium on a fern leaf. pl. sori

spike
A flower cluster consisting of flowers growing directly from a central stalk.

sporangiophore
A stalk or other structure bearing sporangia.

sporangium
A case holding spores. Plural = sporangia

stamen
The part of the flower where the pollen is produced. Usually comprised of filament and an anther. The male part of a flower.

stigma
The part of the flower that recives the pollen. The tip of the pistil.

stipule
A leaf-like appendage occurring in pairs, one on each side of the base of a leaf.

stolon
A branch at the base of a plant that can take root and form a new plant.

style
The stalk of the pistil. The connection between the stigma and ovary.

subtend
To be immediately below.

tendril
Threadlike clinging part of a climbing plant.

toothed
The margin of the leaf has somewhat regular, shallow indentations. There need not be points

trichome
A hair or hair like gland on the surface or a structure such as a leaf or stem.

tufted
In a dense cluster.

umbel
A Flower cluster with all the flower stalks radiating from a central point.

villous
Covered with trichomes forming a soft velvety surface.

whorled
Three or more leaves arranged in a whorl arround the stem.

winter annual
A plant that dies after producing seed that germinate later the same year and overwinter as immature plants.




© 1999-2000 Daniel Reed
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