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Plant Terminology

Achene
An achene is a simple dry fruit grown by many flowering plants. They do not open at maturity and are grown from one carpel.

Biennial
These types of plants have a two year life cycle. The plant grows the first year, and flowers or grows fruits during the second year.

Bract
A bract is a specialized leaf that is normally part of the reproductive part of the plant. Some bracts attract pollinators by being brightly colored.

Calcareous
This term refers to soil which has a high level of calcium carbonate. This content makes the soil very alkaline.

Calyx
The word calyx is used as a collective term for the sepals of a flower.

Chlorotic
When there is a nutrient deficiency that causes a plant to fail to produce chlorophyll, a yellowing of the plants tissue can occur, and the plant if referred to as being chlorotic.

Corolla
The corolla is the overall structure of all the petals of the flower.

Crop
A season's yield of a plant that is grown in large quantities. Crops are usually grown as food for sale in grocery markets, but also can be grown for livestock feed and for fuel.

Culm
Originally the term culm referred to a stem of any kind. It now refers to an above ground stem.

Cultivar
A cultivar results from the cross-breeding of plants, which results in a new subspecies, or cultivar (hybrid).

Cymes
A cyme is a variation of the arrangement of flowers on a plant.

Deciduous
A deciduous plant is one that loses its leaves seasonally. Loss of leaves normally is in conjunction with a seasonal weather change, such as winter.

Dioecious
This is when flowers of a plant are one sex only, and require a second plant with flowers of the opposite sex to reproduce.

Endemic
When a plant is said to be 'endemic', it means it is confined, restricted, or found only in a particular location.

Frost Tender
Plants that are said to be 'frost tender' can not survive in any level of frost.

Gametes
Germ cells, called gametes, from the male and female plants fuse together during fertilization.

Glabrous
Parts of plants that are glabrous have no 'hairs' on their surface.

Gynoecium
The female reproductive part of the plant.

Hybrid
A hybrid plant is the result of interbreeding different plant species of separate taxa.

Lanceolate
This is a term describing the particular shape of leaves. Lanceolate leaves are long leaves that are wider in the middle.

Lenticel
A lenticel is an area of spongy tissue on the outside of vascular plants that allow for the exchange of gases between the atmosphere and the inner tissue of the plant.

Monocarpic
These plants have a limited life cycle. The plant will grow, develop flowers, set their seeds, and the die.

Pappus
The pappus surrounds the base of the corolla, and in some species, allows the seeds to be carried off by the wind (ie. Dandelion).

Pendulous
When a tree's branches are dangling or hanging loosely in the shape of a pendulum, they are said to be pendulous.

Perennial
If a plant lives for more than two years it is classified as a perennial.

Perianth
The perianth refers to the outer portion of a flower. The perianth contains the petals, sepals, and tepals.

Pericarp
The fleshy and edible part of a plant, or the fruit, is called the pericarp. It is the tissue that surrounds the seed(s).

Petal
The petals of a flower are the showy, usually brightly colored parts of the flower head that surround the reproductive parts.

Propagation
This is the act of reproducing, spreading or distributing plants through both artificial and natural methods. Common methods are by using seeds or cuttings.

Radicle
This is the first part to emerge from the seed during germination, considered the embryonic root of the plant. The radicle, once emerged, always grows downward in the soil.

Ramification
The process of making parts of trees/plants smaller is called ramification. This is usually accomplished through pruning. (ie. Making a tree into a bonsai variant).

Root Tuber
A root tuber is a lateral root, although modified. These tubers are enlarged, and work as an organ for storage of nutrients. A good example of a root tuber is the sweet potato.

Samara
The fruit of a plant that is in the shape of wings, allowing the wind to carry them off. Often referred to as a 'helicopter'.

Sepal
The sepal of a flower lies underneath the petals. They are usually green (but not always), and are of similar shape to the petals.

Stamen
This term refers to the male organs of a plant.

Stem Tuber
This type of tuber tends to develop at the sides of the parent plant, and close to the soil. The topside can grow stems and leaves, while the underside develops roots. A potato is a specialized stem tuber.

Stipule
Outgrowths located on either side of the leafstalk base. Stipules come in all shapes and sizes; spines, scales, hairs, etc.

Succulent
A succulent plant is a plant that has adapted to hot and arid weather/soil conditions by retaining water in their stems, leaves and roots. Also known as 'fat plants'.

Tepal
A flowers tepal is an element of the outer part of the flower itself, and includes the sepals and/or petals. When the petals and sepals are of similar shape and color, the term tepal is normally used as a collective name.

Tuber
A tuber is an enlarged plant structure used to store nutrients, usually to provide sustenance for the plant during the winter months, and to help regrow the plant the following year. There are two types of tubers: stem tuber and root tuber.

Whorl
A whorl is when items on a plant surround a central point. Example: Leaves that are whorled surround and attach to the stem at the same point.