Make your own free website on

Botanical Glossary


The technical terms of botany are often difficult and obscure, but they represent an indispensable, precise shorthand when describing the physical attributes of plants. Without them, many more words would be needed to ensure a complete and accurate description. The following glossary defines the technical terms used widely in everyday botany, and you may even come across a few in some reference books.



Achene - A small, dry fruit that contains one loose seed and that does not split open spontaneously. (e.g. sunflower seed).

Acuminate - Tapering gradually to a point at the apex.

Acute - Coming sharply to a point at the apex.

Alternate - Arranged singly at different points along a stem or axis.

Annual - Completing the cycle from seed to death in one year or season.

Apex -The tip.

Appressed - Pressed flat or close up against something.

Aril - An outer covering or appendage of some seeds.

Ascending - Rising upward gradually from a prostate base.

Awn - A bristle characteristic of the spike-lets in some grasses.

Axil - The angle formed by a stem with a branch, leaf stalk, or flower stalk growing from it.

Axillary - Growing from an axil.

Axis - The main stem of a plant, or a central line of symetry, development, or growth.

Berry - A stone-less, pulpy fruit containing one or more embedded seeds. (e.g. grape).

Biennial - Completing the cycle from seed to death in two years or seasons.

Bilabiate - Two-lipped.

Bipinnate - Pinnate, with pinnate leaflets.

Blade - The broad, thin part of a leaf or petal.

Bloom - A powdery, whitish coating on leaves, stems, or fruit.

Bract - A small, sometimes scale-like leaf, usually associated with flower clusters.

Bud - A protuberance on a stem, from which a flower, leaf, or shoot develops.

Bulb - A thick, rounded, underground organ consisting of layered, fleshy leaves and membranes.