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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.



Ob- - A prefix that indicates reversal of the usual orientation. (e.g. oblanceolate means widening gradually from the pointed base to a maximum near the apex, which may be more or less rounded).

Oblong - Longer than wide and rounded at the ends, with nearly parallel sides for much of the length.

Obtuse - Rounded or blunt.

Opposite - Growing two to a node on opposite sides.

Orbicular - circular or approximately round.

Oval - Broadly elliptical.

Ovate - Shaped like an egg, with the narrow end at the apex.

Ovoid - Ovate.

Palmate - Compounded, divided, lobed, or ribbed so that the divisions or ribs spread out like fingers from a single point.

Panicle - A raceme compounded by branching.

Papolionaceous - Descriptive of a flower whose petals are arranged to resemble a butterfly.

Pedicel - The stalk of one flower in a cluster.

Peduncle - The stalk of a flower cluster or of a solitary flower.

Peltate - Having a stalk attached at or near the middle.

Perennial - Living through three or more seasons.

Persistant - Remaining on the plant; not falling off readily.

Petal - One unit of a corolla.

Petiole - The stalk of a leaf.

Pinna - (plural pinnae) - A leaflet or primary division o a pinnately compound leaf.

Pinnate - Having leaflets arranged in opposite rows along the petiole.

Pinnatifid - Split about halfway to the mid-rib, such that the divisions are pinnately arranged.

Pinnule - One of the divisions of a pinnate leaflet in a bi-pinnate leaf.

Pistil - The female reproduction organ of a flower.

Pod - Generally, a dry fruit that splits open.

Pome - A fleshy fruit with a central seed-bearing core. (e.g. apple).

Procumbent - Growing along the ground without rooting, and having ascending tips.

Prostrate - Growing flat along the ground.

Pubescent - Covered with down or soft, short hairs.

Punctate - Having translucent spots or depressions.