Wildflower Glossary

This glossary explains botanical and related terminology that you may come across in wildflower books and in plant science papers.

Term Explanation
Achene One-seeded, non-splitting dry fruit
Acidophile Preferring to grow on acid soils
Achlorophyllose Without chlorophyll, a green pigment, and therefore unable to photosynthesise
Actinomorphic Radially symmetrical or having more than one plane of symmetry
Adventitious Roots and buds that appear on a stem in abnormal places
Albinism A complete lack of pigmentation
Albino Plant lacking pigmentation
Alkaline Calcareous or chalky substrates
Allele One possible form of a gene
Allogamy Fertilisation by pollen from a flower of the same species
Allopatric Species in geographical areas that do not overlap
Alternate Leaves occurring singly on opposite sides of a stem, rather than in pairs
Anemophilous Pollinated by wind
Annular Ring-shaped
Anther A male reproductive organ of a flower that bears pollen
Anthocynanins Pigments producing red or purple colours
Anthoxanthins Yellow pigments in plants
Aphyllous Without leaves
Apical At the tip
Apochromy Having abnormal colour
Apomixis Seed reproduction from unfertilised egg cells
Asymbiotic When symbiotic fungi are absent
Auricles Ear-shaped structures
Autogamous Self-pollinating
Axil The angle between a stem and a branch or a leaf
Back-cross Cross between a hybrid and one of its parents
Basal Located at the base of an organ, for example a leaf at the base of a stem
Bog Wet, acidic peat
Bosses Irregular swellings
Bract Leaf-like structure often found beneath a flower
Bracteole Secondary bract at the base of secondary branches of the flower stalk
Bulb Food storage organ formed by a cluster of fleshy leaf bases
Bulbil A small bulb sometimes located in the axil of a leaf or bract
Calcareous Usually refers to limstone rock or chalky soil with a high calcium content
Calyx The outer whorl of a flower, which is made up of its set of sepals
Capsule A dry seed pod
Carapace Hardened shell
Carpel The female seed-producing unit in a flower, consisting of an ovary connected by a style to a stigma
Cilia Tiny fleshy hair-like structures
Chlorophyll Green pigment important in photosynthesis
Cladode Modified stem that resembles a leaf (for example in Butcher's Broom)
Cleistogamous Self-pollinating flowers with petals and sepals that never open
Clone Identical genetic match to a 'parent'
Corolla Inner whorl of petals of a flower
Corona Petal-like flaps, often elongated to form a crown-like tube (as for example in a daffodil)
Crenate Structures with minute scalloped or round-toothed margins
Cross-pollination Pollination of one flower by pollen from another, usually from a different plant
Cyme Cluster of flowers with lateral branches each ending in a flower
Deciduous Sheds leaves or other organs in one limited period during every year (unlike evergreens whose leaves are not all shed at the same time)
Decurved Curved downwards
Deflexed Bent sharply downwards
Diploid Normal state for plant cells - containing two matching sets of chromosomes
Disc floret A flower in the centre of a flower-head whose petals form a tube
Drupe Fleshy fruit containing seeds surrounded by a toughened coat (as in plums, peaches etc)
Drupelet One of a group of connected drupes (as in blackberries etc)
Ectomychorrhiza Association with fungi where the fungus forms a layer on the outside of the roots of a plant
Endomychorrhiza Association with fungi where the fungus penetrates the root of a plant
Epicalyx Second ring of sepal-like organs immediately below the true sepals (calyx)
Epichile Outer portion of the lip in those orchid genera where the lip is divided into two parts
Epidermis A 'skin' or surface layer
Epiphyte A plant that grows on the surface of another but without taking nutrients from it
Escape Refers to a non-native plant that is cultivated and then becomes established in the wild
Esker Glacial deposits such as sand and gravel
Eutrophication Where a habitat becomes over-enriched with nutrients. This happens frequently with rivers or ponds as a result of run-off from farming and is often the cause of native species becoming stifled or destroyed
Fall petal One of the three outer petals of the iris that droop downwards
Family Classification unit grouping closely related genera
Fen Marshes and wetlands sited on alkaline, neutral or only very slightly acid soil, often but not always beside lakes
Floret One of the small flowers contained in a flower-head
Filiform Thread-like
Flower head A cluster of florets or flowers
Garrigue/Garigue Habitat with low-growing shrubs with wide gaps in between them. Common in the Mediterranean region
Geitonogamy Fertilised by pollen from a flower on the same plant
Genus Classification unit grouping together closely related species (Pl. genera)
Gland Superficial organ that secretes oils or other substances
Glandular hair Hair containing a gland
Hemiparasitic A plant relying partly on the nutrients abstracted from other plants
Herbarium Collection of dried, pressed plants
Herbaceous A plant that dies down to ground level at the end of the growing season
Hooded Developed into a concave shape
Hybrid Plant originating from cross pollination between two different species
Hybrid swarm Population of plants where the barriers between two species have broken down leading to hybrids and back crosses interbreeding. The resulting plants exhibit a variety of characteristics from both 'parents'
Hybrid vigour Where plants of the first generation of hybrids become exceptionally large and robust
Hypanthial tube Tube formed from by an extension of the receptacle below a flower
Hyperchromic Having an excessive amount of pigmentation, resulting in more intense colour
Hypha Fine thread-like structure that makes up the body of a fungus. Pl. hyphae
Inflorescence A group of flowers arising from one stem
Intergeneric hybrid A hybrid where the 'parents' are from two different genera
Internode Stem section between two nodes
Introduced Brought into an area by human or other means
Involucre Ring of crowded bracts encircling a flower head
Involucral bract Bract forming part of an involucre
Keel/Keel petal Lower fused petals of a pea flower folded to form a hull-like structure
Lanceolate Oval and narrowing to a pointed tip
Latex Milky sap
Lax Loose rather than densely packed (usually applied to the flowers in an inflorescence)
Lignify To become woody
Lip A petal that protrudes, forming a lobe. Found in orchids and in flowers of the Mint family
Machair Confined to the coasts of western Ireland and Scotland, a sandy, lime-rich (usually as the result of crushed shells) habitat usually species-rich
Maquis An area of densely-packed shrubs up to five metres in height. Common in the Mediterranean region
Meadow Grassy field which kept for the production of hay and grazed only infrequently
Mealy A flour-like texture or substance
Mericarp One-seeded portion of a fruit formed when it splits from the rest of the fruit
Monocarpic Flowers once and then dies
Mutualism Relationship between organisms from which all benefit
Micorrhizome Early stage of seedling development during which it is solely dependent on fungi for nutrients
Mycorrhiza Relationship between plant and fungus where the fungus will penetrate or form a layer over the roots
Mycelium Mass of branching filaments that make up the body of a fungus
Mycotrophic Acquiring nutrients from fungus
Native Belonging to a region through natural circumstances
Naturalised Introduced to a region but subsequently forming self-sustaining populations
Nectary Nectar-secreting gland
Node Point on a stem where one or more leaves are attached
Ovary Female reproductive organ containing ovules
Ovule Organ inside ovary enclosing the embryo sac containing an egg
Panicle Branched cluster of flowers with stalks
Pappus Tuft of hair on achenes or other fruits which aids seed dispersal
Parasitic Entirely dependent for it survival on abstracting nutrients from another plant
Pasture Grassland that is grazed for part of a year and not cut for hay or silage
Pedicel Stalk of flower
Petals Inner whorl of perianth segments - the outer one being the sepals
pH Measure of acidity or alkalinity based on a logarithmic scale of hydrogen ion concentration, where 0 is most acidic, 7 is neatral, and 14 is most basic (alkaline)
Pheromone Chemical produced by animal or insect that influences the behaviour of other members of the same species
Photosynthesis Process of production of food by green plants
Phototropic Acquisition of food by photosynthesis
Pinnate Leaflets arranged on two sides of a single stalk
Pollen Spores with single cell containing male gamete
Pollinium Mass of pollen transported during pollination
Raceme Unbranched flower cluster where each flower is stalked
Ray/Ray-floret Outer, flattened flower of a daisy-type flower head with a large petal extending radially outwards; the inside reagion of the flower head consists of disc florets with much smaller, equal-sized petals
Receptacle That part of the stem that has flower parts attached to it
Recurved Bent or curved backwards
Reflexed Bent down or back
Reticulation Marked with network of veins
Rhizome Creeping (usually underground) thickened stem that stores food
Runner Stem that creeps along the ground and forms roots at periodic intervals that will eventually form separate plants
Saprophyte Plant feeding on rotten vegetation in the ground
Scape Leafless stem bearing flowers
Secund Facing in the same direction
Sepal Outer row or ring of perianth segments forming the protective covering of a flower bud
Septum A thin partition or membrane separating the individual seeds within a seed pod or fruit
Sessile Without a stem
Silicula Fruit of the cabbage family, often rounded and three times longer than it is broad
Simple Leaves not divided into leaflets
Spadix Fleshy spike with unstalked flowers
Spathe Large hooded bract enclosing a spadix
Species Classification of a group of similar individuals that breed true in the wild
Speculum Mirror-like patch found on the petals of some orchids
Spike Unbranched cluster of flowers that are unstalked
Stamen Male reproductive organ of a flower
Spur Hollow pouch, sometimes cylindrical or conical, projecting from a flower and containing nectar
Standard/Standard petal Upright, upper petal of a pea flower that is larger than the others
Stemless A plant without an obvious stem but with a flower stalk that arising directly from the ground
Stigma Part of a flower that receives pollen
Stigma ray Star-shaped stigma with radiating branches
Stipule Leaf-like organ at the base of a leaf stalk
Stolon Stem growing horizontally above or below the ground
Style The part of the female reproductive organ that joins the ovary to the stigma
Subshrub Small perennial with woody stems
Succulent Plant with fleshy leaves
Suture Seam along which pods or other fruits split open
Symbiosis Relationship between two or more organisms in which all benefit
Tap root Strong main root that grows vertically downwards
Tepal Petals and sepals that cannot be clearly distinguished from each other
Trifoliate Leaf made up from three distinct leaflets, for example as in clover
Tuber Food storage organ formed by a swollen underground stem
Tubercle Small warty protuberance
Umbel Flat or domed-topped flower cluster with all the stems originating at the same place, as for example in cow parsley
Valve One of several parts of a fruit that become partially or fully separated
Whorl Collection of organs that encircle a stem
Wing/Wing petal Lateral petals of many flowers particularly orchids and pea flowers

Top of page...