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Glossary of Terms

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  • A - Z
Term
Definition
acaulescent

Stemless or nearly stemless.

adpressed

Flattened or pressed down.

adventitious offsets

Unusual offsetting, as in the tiny offsets at the base of some bromeliads such as Alcantarea or on the inflorescences of some Tillandsias. These are often referred to as 'grass pups'.

aff

Affinis or having a great resemblance to the named taxon, but with slight variations. Undetermined. See cf.

ageotropic

Growing equally well in any direction, without respect to gravity.

albomarginated

Having variegation on the leaf margins only.

anthesis

Technically the period when a plant is in perfect bloom, when the flowers are at their most receptive state. Sometimes used to refer to the entire blooming period.

apex

The highest or topmost point.

apiculate

Abrupt, blunt tip, may even be 'indented', and with a small, claw like, soft, terminal spine.
areoles

bigeneric

A hybrid between two species of different genera. See Nothogenera.

blush

Referrers to the color change during the blooming period.

bract

Modified leaves on an inflorescence, often brightly colored and flower-like.

bulbils

Small bulb-like structures formed at leaf axils. Can sprout to form small plantlets before dropping off.

bullate

Having a puckered, pillowy or blistered surface.

campanulate

Bell shaped, usually referring to flowers that are also pendant or nodding.

capitate

Inflorescence forming a rounded head.

cataphyll

A temporary sheath formed to protect a new leaf or other growth. Sometimes persisting, sometimes not.

caudex

An unusually thick trunk or stem below the branches, just below to just above the soil surface. Includes the stem and root.

caulescent

Having an elongated leafy stem.

cephalium

A crown of wool and bristly spines that protect the flowers of some cacti species. Often brightly colored and resembling a fez or cap.

cf

From the Latin word to compare. Means that the plant identity is unconfirmed, but that it compares to or is related to another species. Some say; ‘compares favorably’ with.

cleistogamous

With flowers that do not or rarely open, and self pollinate.

clone

A plant genetically identical to the parent. Used to refer to tissue cultured plants or offsets. Any single seedling is a clone and all vegetative propagations from it will be clones of that plant.

crenate

Having rounded or scalloped margins.

crispate

Leaf margins that are wavy, curled or undulating, usually in an uneven fashion.

cultivar

A cultivated variety or strain, differing from wild populations.

curvulate

Slightly curved or curving.

cuspidate

Having a rather rounded leaf tip with a sharp, stiff point.

cyme

A terminal, flat-topped inflorescence in which all flowers are in rows and bloom in sequence from the center out.

deciduous

Referring to plants that seasonally lose their leaves.

dehisce

When a seed pod or capsule opens to release the seeds inside.

digitate

Branches clustering from one point like fingers on a hand.

dioecious

Plants with only one sex. Plants are either male or female.

discolor

Having two-toned leaves, often green above and purple below.

disjunct

When related taxa are widely separated geographically.

distichous

With two ranks or rows opposite a single axis.

epiphyte

Not soil bound, but using another plant or object for support. Not a parasite.

epiphytic

Growing on or in a tree or using another plant for mechanical support. Not a parasite.

exfoliate

Referring to bark that peels off or sheds in layers or flakes.

fasciculate

Clustering habit. Offsets from the base form tight bunches.

filiferous

Having thread-like filaments or fibers as along leaf margins.

floccose

Wooly or fuzzy.

flush

Referrers to the color change during the blooming period.

geotropic

Growth in response to gravity. Usually referring to pendant flowers or umbels.

glabrous

Shiny and smooth, lacking hairs.

glaucous

A sea-green color, coated with a waxy powder.

globose

Rounded or spherical shape.

glochids

Tiny, hair-like, barbed spines borne in tufts at the areoles of certain cacti that detach easily and become embedded in the skin.

grex

All siblings of the same seed cross.

habit

As a botanical term; the shape, size, manner of growth, etc. of a species.

habitat

The home range of a species and it’s ecological type.

herbarium sheet

A paper with a prepared and dried plant specimen used for identification.

hybrid

The result of a cross between two different species or hybrids.

hybrid swarm

A cross between two species that becomes fertile and breeds true, imitating a true species.
incurved

indument

A covering of fine hairs or scales that may appear wooly or dusty.

inflorescence

The flowering portion of a plant, including the scape

infructescence

A fruit bearing stem or shoot.

lanate

Having a coating of woolly hairs.

lanceolate

Having a lance-like shape, long and tapering.

lepidote

Having a coating of prominent, scurfy scales.

lithophyte

A plant that uses rocks for support. A cliff or rock dweller. See saxicole.

lithophytic

Living on or attached to rocks or on a cliff.

mammilate

Having nipple-like shape or protuberances.

medusoid

Having a crown of branches emanating from apex point or a central disc.

meristem

The actively growing tissue of a plant, used for artificial cloning.

mermecophytic

Plants with a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with ants. Usually providing housing for an ant colony.

mesic

Constantly moist.

monocarpic

Literally 'one-flowering'. Refers mainly to bromeliads that flower and do not produce offsets.

monoecious

Having both male and female parts on the same organism such as a plant with perfect flowers.

monotypic

A genus with a single species.

monstrose

Having a deformed, wavy, twisted, contorted or other abnormally shaped trunk, stem or main body. Not referring to the apex.

myrmecophyte

Plants with a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with ants. Usually providing housing for an ant colony.

napiform

Thick at the top, tapering to a fine point. Turnip shaped.

nidular

Nested or nest-like. As an inflorescence deep in the center of the rosette.

nothogenera

Hybrids between plants of different genera. Most often used in reference to natural hybrids. Nothogenera names are preceded by an X.

oblong

Refering to leaf shape, a rounded rectangle, at least two times longer than wide.

offset

A vegetative division or lateral shoot. Synonym: pup.

ovary

The swollen, berry-like part of the flower that will become a fruit when fertilized.

ovoid

Shaped like an egg. Egg shaped.

pachycaul

An abnormally thick-stemmed plant.

panicle

A loosely branched inflorescence.

pedicellate

Flowers attached by a short stalk or stem (pedicel).

pinnae

Secondary branches or leaves on a bipinnately divided inflorescence or leaf, for example; the leaflets on a fern frond.

pinnate

Compound, with branches arranged in feather fashion to the sides of the rachis.

pinnules

Secondary branches or leaves on a bipinnately divided inflorescence or leaf.

procumbent

Flat along the ground, but not rooting.

proliferating

Producing large numbers of offsets at the base, crown or on the inflorescence of a plant.

prostrate

Growing flat along the ground.

pseudobulb

A thickened base resembling a bulb, common in epiphytic plants like orchids and some bromeliads.

pup

A vegetative division or lateral shoot. Synonym: offset.

raceme

A single stemmed inflorescence with sessile flowers.

rachis

The central spine of an inflorescence.

recurved

Being bent or curved downward or backward.

reticulations

A network of veins or lines on a leaf surface.

rheophyte

A plant that lives in flowing streams or rapidly moving waters. Can include plants that are found on stream banks frequently inundated by moving water.

rhizome

A fleshy or woody, usually underground stem with roots that sprouts new shoots from the internodes.

rosette

Used in reference to the shape of a plant, with leaves in a circular whorl, emanating from a central stem.

rugose

Rough or wrinkly.

saxicole

A rock dwelling species.

saxicolous

Growing on rocks or cliff faces.

scabrid

Rough or scaly surface. Some succulent plants have small bumps or tubercles or even a 'sandpapery' feel to them. This is scabrid.

scandent

Creeping, climbing or vining, rooting from the internodes.

scape

The stem of an inflorescence, bearing one or more flowers, usually leaf-like bracts and sometimes branches.

scurf

Woolly hairs, usually found on the scape of an inflorescence.

serrate

Toothy leaf margins.

sessile

Lacking a stem or peduncle.

setose

Bristly or having bristle like hairs.

spike

An unbrached inflorescence bearing sessile flowers. A term sometimes used in place of ‘inflorescence’.

stellatte

Having leaves or bracts radiating from a central point in a flat, star-liike pattern.

stipules

Sheath-like, usually paired, leaf-like structures at the base of leaf petioles that protect new leaf buds. Sometimes appearing as spines or glands. These structures often persist after the leaf falls off.

stoloniferous

Propagating by means of an elongated woody stem.

striated

Striped with thin, linear lines.

strobilate

Cone-like shaped inflorescence.

taxa

A unique grouping. For our purposes, a species. Singular is taxon.

taxon

A unique grouping. For our purposes, a species. Plural is taxa.

terete

Curled from the edges to form a tapering cylinder.

terrestrial

Plants that must grow in soil.

tessellated

Having a checkered or mosaic pattern.

tomentose

A hairy coating.

tomentum

Tomentose, having a hairy or wooly coating.

trichome

The scales or hairs which all bromeliads have are absorbing organs. These also give plants such as Tillandsias their silvery or fuzzy look.

triploid

Having an extra set of chromosomes. Often causes gigantism and other genetic morphs.

umbel

A cluster of flowers on short pedicels which emanate from a single point.

urceolate

Pitcher or urn shaped, usually referring to flowers.

variegated

Having stripes, usually white, randomly up each leaf. Can also refer to random patterns of differing shades or colors.

velamin

A spongy layer covering the roots of most orchids, Anthuriums and some other plants such as Clivia and many epiphytes.

vivipary

Proliferating or producing offsets from the inflorescence.

xeric

Adapted to arid conditions.