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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.



Calyx - The outer part of a flower, usually consisting of green, leafy sepals.

Capsule - A dry, many-seeded, spontaneously splitting fruit that arises from a compound pistil.

Carpel - The wall of a simple pistil, or part of the wall of a compound pistil.

Catkin - A spike-like flower cluster that bears scaly bracts and petal-less, unisexual flowers.

Cauline - Relating to or growing on a stem.

Clasping - Partly or completely surrounding the stem.

Claw - The narrow, curved base of a petal or sepal in some flowers.

Compound - Made up of two or more definable parts.

Compound Pistil - A pistil made up of two or more partially or completely united carpals.

Cone - A rounded, more or less elongated cluster of fruits or flowers covered with scales or bracts.

Cordate - Heart-shaped, with the pint at the apex.

Corm - A bulb-like but solid, fleshy underground stem base.

Corolla - The petals of a flower, which may be separate or joined in varying degrees.

Corymb - A generally flat-topped flower cluster with pedicels varying in length, the outer flowers opening first.

Creeper - A shoot that grows along the ground, rooting all along its length.

Crenate - Having rounded teeth along the margin.

Culm - The hollow stem of grasses and bamboos.

Cyme - A branching, relatively flat-topped flower cluster whose central or terminal flower opens first, forcing development or further flowers from lateral buds.

Deciduous - Falling off each season (as leaves); bearing deciduous parts (as trees).

Decompound - Having divisions that are also compound.

Decumbent - Lying on the ground but having an ascending tip.

Decurrent - Descriptive of leaves whose edges run down onto the stem.

Dentate - Sharply toothed, with the teeth pointing straight out from the margin.

Digitate - Compound, with the elements growing from a single point.

Dilated - Expanded, broadened, flaring.

Disk Flower - One of the tubular flowers or florets in the centre of the flower head of a composite flower such as the daisy. (see also ray flower).

Dissected - Cut into fine segments.

Double - Descriptive of the flowers that have more petals than normal.]

Doubly Serrate - Serrate, with small teeth on the margins of the larger ones.

Drupe - A fleshy fruit containing a single seed in a hard stone. (e.g. peach).