Greenfinger humor
   This is a short list of botanical terms primarily encountered when relating to orchids. I have attemped to define the terms in "plain English" but some of the definitions are still sometimes rather cryptic in that they use "other" terms that may not be familiar to you.

   Although I have hypertexed (linked) some words in the definitions to assist you, I limited the use of hyperlinks to avoid sending you "bouncing from word to word to word" like some other online glossaries do.
Are there other terms you feel I should add to this list?
Can you provide any additional or better definitions?
If so, please let me know.
Linda's signature
The Orchid Lady

-- A --
ACAULESCENT Having no visible stem, or a very short one
ACAULIS Having no stem
ACCRETE Grown together
ACICULAR Needlelike spine; pointed; bristle
Scimitar-shaped. A "scimitar" is a type of curved sword you see in those 1,001 Arabian Nights type movies. I.E. curved-shaped.
Term applies to sympodial type orchids, referring to the annual portions of successive growth of the rhizome, each beginning with scaled-leaves, ending with an inflorescence.
ACROPETAL Leaves and flowers developing successively (one after the other) on one axis so youngest is at the apex (top).
ACULEATE prickle-shaped
ACUMEN A tapering point
ACUTE Distinctly and sharply pointed, but not drawn out
adj. Adnate
Fusion of unlike parts, e.g. labellum with column; contrasted with connation
Applied to roots which do not arise from the radicle or its subdivisions, but from a node on the stem, etc
AERIAL ROOTS Borne above potting surface
AGAR "Agar" is just an easier way of saying the real name "agar agar"
Gelantinous substance obtained mostly as translucent strips or white powder from certain sea weeds; used as solidifying agent in culture media.
ALATA Winged
ALBA Flower with all segments white, but which may have some degree of yellow on the lip only
ALBESCENT Becoming white or yellow
ALBINISM Lack of color; deficient in pigment
Designates a group of genera that have many common characteristics and can be used for cross breeding to produce new hybrid genera. An alliance is limited to genera within a single tribe.
ALLO Combining form denoting differential characteristics or forms; differentiation from normal
AMPLEXICAUL Clasping the stem
ANAEROBIC Living in the absence of free oxygen
ANASTOMOSE When one vein unites with another, the connection forming a reticulation
ANGULATE More or less angular
ANTHER In seed plants, part of the stamen which develops and contains pollen
ANTHESIS The period between the opening of the bud and the withering of the or stamens
ANTICOUS The fore-part, i.e. that most remote or turned away from the axis
ANTRORSE Turned backwards, directed upwards
APHYLLOUS Without leaves
APICAL At the tip; as in an inflorescence borne at the top of the stem or pseudobulb
adj. Apiculate
Furnished with a short sharp, but not stiff, point
APICULE A short and sharp, but not stiff, point
APPLANATE Flattened out or horizontally expanded
APPRESSED Lying flat for the whole length of the organ
ARCUATE Curved like a bow
ARISTATE Tipped with bristle-like appendage or awn
AURICLE A small lobe or ear
AUTOGAMOUS Self-fertilized; flowers that are fertilized by their own pollen.
AXIL Upper angle formed between the stem or branch and any other branch, leaf or other organ arising from them
AXIS 1. Upper angle formed between the stem or branch and any other branch, leaf or other organ arising from them
2. The main line of growth in a plant or organ, e.g., the stem, from which the other parts such as the leaves and flowers grow


-- B --
BARBATE Bearded; barbed
BASAL At the base of an organ or part such as the stem or pseudobulb
BIFOLIATE With two leaves
BIGENERIC Applies to hybrids made between members of two genera
BISEXUAL Two-sexed; with both stamens and pistils
BLADE Expanded portion of a leaf or petal
A leaf-like organ (often very reduced or absent) bearing a flower, inflorescence or partial infloescence in its axil
BRACTEATE Bearing bracts
BUD An unopened flower
BULBOUS Bulb-like
A membranous pocket or pouch in the orchid flower, covering or enclosing the viscidium to stop it from drying up, and being pushed back by visiting insects.


-- C --
CADUCOUS Falling off at early stages, when buds fall off.
CAESPITOSE Growing in tufts or dense clumps
CALCAREOUS Containing calcium carbornate, or calcite, chalky.
CALCEOLATE Slipper-like; with the form of a round-toed shoe
CALLUSpl. calli 1. A waxy or fleshy protuberance on the labellum
2. A solid protuberance caused by a mass of cells.
CALYX Outside covering, usually green, of flower bud, which splits open as the petals grow
A dry fruit which opens, when the seeds are ripe, at several slits or holes. Any closed vessel containing spores or seeds.
CARPEL Simple PISTIL, or one member of a compound PISTIL, spore bearing organ.
CAUDATE Having a "tail" or narrowed, apical extension, as some sepals and petals.
Slender stalk-like appendage that attaches the VISCIDIUM (a sticky gland) to the POLLINIA (pollen packets).
The green pigment in the leaves and sometimes stems of most plants, which uses solar energy to convert carbon dioxide and water to sugar, which is essential in the manufacture of food by the plants.
CILIATE fringed with usually small hairs
CLEISTOGAMOUS With fertilization taking place within the unopened flower
CLINANDRIUM A cavity, at the apex of a column in orchids, in which the anthers rest.
CLONE A plant derived by vegetative propagation from one original specimen
The male and female reproductive organs of the orchid. The column (technically called a "gynostemium") is formed by the fusion of male portion of the flower (stamens) and female portion (pistils). This is one major characteristic that defines orchids and differentiates them from all other flowering plants.
COLUMN-FOOT A basal extension of the column to which the labellum is attached.
adj. Connate
Fusion of like parts. e.g. sepal with sepal: contrasted with adnation.
COROLLA Inner of two series of floral leaves; petals
COTYLEDON Seed-leaf; primary leaf or leaves in an embryo
CREST An elevated and irregular or toothed ridge, in orchids found on the lip
The progeny resulting from pollination from one plant to another. The term is sometimes applied to a hybrid between different species. "CROSS" is also used to describe transferring of pollen from one flower of a plant to another flower of a different plant.
The horticulture term for "variety" used in botany which refers to minor differences that differentiates a plant from the typical species such as a variation in flower color.


-- D --
DAMPING OFF The collapse of seedlings, usually caused by infestations of a fungi
"falling off"; Plants that periodically (usually seasonally) loose their folage to conserve moisture during dormant period.
DEHISCENCE Spontaneous opening of a ripe fruit to discharge its seeds
DIANDROUS With two stamens, as members of the orchid sub-family Cypripedioideae
DIOECIOUS Unisexual; with the male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on different individual plants
DISTICHOUS In two ranks or rows on opposite sides of an axis
DIURNAL Referring to daytime; in reference to flowers, signifying those which open only during the day


-- E --
ECALCARATE Without a spur or spurs
ECHINATE Furnished with prickles or bristles
ENDEMIC Confined to certain regions, such as country or island or a particular geographic region
EPHEMERAL Lasting only one day when in flower
EPICHIL The upper part of the jointed, complex lip of certain orchids, as in the genus Stanhopea
EPICHILE Terminal lobe of labellum in certain orchids
adj. Epiphytic
epi, above or on; phyte, plant; a plant that grows on another plant-- such as on a bush or tree, but is not nourished by it (hence, not parasitic). They use the host only for anchorage, drawing food and moisture from the air and from humus collected in the angles of branches or in the crevices of the bark. An "air-plant." Orchids generally are found growing one of three ways: as EPIPHYTES (the majority grow in this manner), LITHOPHYTES, or TERRESTRIALS.
EROSE With the margin irregularly notched, as if gnawed


-- F --
A group of plants, usually of several genera, and many species, which have the same basic floral structure and can thus be readily segregated and recognised from other families.
FASCICULATE Bundled; radiating from a central growing point.
FERTILISATION The fusion of two gametes to form a new individual (zygote). Cross-fertilisation refers to male and female gametes from different flowers fusing.
FLASK A glass container used in the germination of orchid seeds and new seedlings.
FLASKING This is the process of sowing orchid seeds in a flask or transplanting seedlings into a flask.
FLORA The vegetation or plant life of a given region
FLORIFEROUS Free-flowering; easily brought into flower
FOETID With a disagreeable odour
Leaf-like; used particularly in reference to sepals or bracts which simulate small or large leaves in texture, size, or colour
FRINGED Furnished with hair-like appendages on the margins
FUGACIOUS Withering quickly; falling off soon after anthesis (in reference to a flower)
FUSIFORM Spindle-shaped, tapering at each end, cigar-shaped.


-- G --
GENERIC Of or pertaining to a genus
pl. Genera

A classificatory term for a group of plants, usually composed of several slightly different species, but with characters distinctive enough to enable the genus to be recognised as a separate entity within a family.
GLABROUS Without hair or down.
GLANDULAR With glands, secreting organs, often tiny, which usually make the plant sticky.
GLAUCOUS Covered with a bluish-grey, bluish-green, or whitish bloom which will not rub off
GREGARIOUS Growing together in clusters or colonies
A Latin word meaning "group" or "flock"; the name used to describe a group of offspring of any given hybrid cross. When a grex name is registered, All additional identical crosses, plants produced from seeds of that cross or any asexual divisions of the cross all have the same grex name.
"orchid hybrid (grex) names"
The International Orchid Register is the century old international registration system for orchid hybrids. Its purpose is to ensure that grex nomenclature is uniform, accurate and stable, free from duplication and in accord with internationallly agreed rules.
The Orchid Review is the first place in which all new grex registrations are published for the first time, thus providing an important international service to the orchid world.
GYNOSTEMIUM The technical term for the orchid's column.


-- H --
HASTATE Spear shaped, with the basal lobe turned outward
HERBACEOUS Herb-like; not woody
HERBARIUM A collection of dried (or otherwise preserved) plant specimens
A taxonomic designation rejected because the identical term has been used to disignate another group of the same rank (a Synonym)
HUMUS The brown or blackish substance, sometimes called vegetable mould, which is the final result of the decay of organic matter in the soil.
A plant which is the offspring of parents of different species. Hybrids are either INTRAGENERIC or INTERGENERIC.
The International Orchid Register is the century old international registration system for orchid hybrids. Its purpose is to ensure that grex nomenclature is uniform, accurate and stable, free from duplication and in accord with internationallly agreed rules.
The Orchid Review is the first place in which all new grex registrations are published for the first time, thus providing an important international service to the orchid world.
HYBRIDIZATION To produce hybrid offspring by pollination; to interbreed; to cross
HYPHAE A threadlike filament possessed by many fungi that function in nutrient absorption and transfer.
HYPOCHILE Lower or basal part of the lip in some orchids, as in Stanhopea


-- I --
INDEHISCENT Not splitting open at maturity; opposite of dehiscent
INDIGENOUS Native; not introduced; not exotic
The "flower-cluster";Technically, it's "a general arrangement and disposition of the flowers on an axis" There are many types of inflorescences based on the form of the flower cluster and the manner/sequence of flower blooming. The major orchid inflorescence forms include Spike, Raceme and Scape. Other less common forms seen in orchids include Cyme, Corymb, and Umbel.
INTERGENERIC Term usually used when referring Cross breeding different species from different genera producing new hibrids. Genera are always genetically related members of the same taxonomic Tribe .
INTERNODE Potion of a stem situated between the nodes or joints
Term usually used when referring to cross breeding different species of a single genera producing new hybrids.
ISTHMUS A narrowed portion of a part or segment of a flower


-- K --
KEIKI Hawaiian term used by orchidists to signify an offshoot or offset from a plant


-- L --
LABELLUM Lip, particularly that of an orchid
LABIATE Lipped; furnished with a lip
LINEAR Narrow and comparatively long, with parallel margins
also labellum
A petal, usually of quite different shape and size to the others, normally at the bottom of the flower, or apparently so, and often, especially in orchids, of complicated structure.
adj. Lithophytic
litho-, stone; phyte, plant; a plant that grows on stone-- using it for anchorage, drawing food and moisture from the air and from humus collected in the crevices of the stone. An "air-plant." Orchids generally are found growing one of three ways: LITHOPHYTIC, EPIPHYTES (the majority grow in this manner), or TERRESTRIALS.
LOBE A part of a segment that represents a division to about the middle
LYRATE Shaped like a lyre; with an enlarged apical lobe and smaller lower ones


-- M --
Arid, stony tracts of siliceous soil, covered with shrubs but not trees, such as frequently found in mediterranean countries.
MARL A chalky clay soil.
MEMBRANACEOUS Thin and more or less translucent
The chin-like protuberance occurring in certain orchid flowers, formed usually by the bases of the lateral sepals with the elongated column-foot
MERICLONE An exact genetic copy of another plant produced by meristem culture.
Tissue composed of dividing cells to produce tissues and organs, located in small amounts within the growth buds, root tips and the growing point of shoots.
A laboratory technique that involves the taking of the growing meristem tip from within the new growth and culturing the nucleus of cells, in a similar way to germination of orchid seeds artificially.
The intermediate or middle part of the lip of orchids when this structure is separated into three distinct parts, as in Stanhopea
MONANDROUS With one stamen
MONOCOTYLEDON With a single cotyledon or seed-leaf
With the male (staminate) flowers and the female (pistillate) flowers borne in separate inflorescences but on the same plant
pl. monopodia
adj. monopodial
Orchids that grow primarily upwards, producing new growth at the top of the plant from the location of the previous growth. Leaves are produced alternately on either side of the central stem as it grows. Orchids with a monopodial growth pattern are less common than those with a sympodial growth pattern.
MONOTYPIC One type, such as one species in a genus
A network of hyphae made from new cells that have elongated and split repeatedly forming a network. Quiescence - A stage of dormancy that new buds enter during early winter or periods of cold.
MYRMECOPHILOUS Ant-loving; inhabited by ants


-- N --
NOCTURNAL Of the night; used in reference to flowers which open after dark
NODE A joint or knot
Orchid flowers normally position the lip at the bottom just above the column. Some genera, however, such as Cycnoches, Malaxis, and Nephelaphyllum position the lip uppermost with the column below making the flower appear to be up-side-down.
NOMENCLATURE The system of naming


-- O --
ORCHIDACEAE Pertaining to a large family of perennial epiphytic or terrestrial plants; orchid family
ORCHIDACEOUS Orchid family, usually having showy flowers with corolla of three petals; one labellum or lip differs greatly from others and often spurred
ORCHIDIST One who collects or is interested in orchids horticulturally
ORCHIDOLOGIST A botanist who specializes in the technical sturdy of orchids


panicle a branching inflorescence on which all the branches bear flowers, a branched raceme
paniculate having the form of a panicle
-- P --
PANICLE A branching inflorescence on which all the branches bear flowers, a branched raceme.
PANICULATE Having the form of a panicle.
PARTHENOGENETIC Seed which develops without fertilization, but by stimulus only
PEDICEL The stalk of an individual flower in an inflorescence.
PEDICELLATE OVARY The combined pedicel with pedicellate of the flower
PEDUNCLE Stalk of a flower-cluster or of a solitary flower
PERFOLIATE With the leaf surrounding the stem
PERIANTH Floral envelope, consisting of the calyx and corolla (even if not all parts are present) the perianth of an orchid flower consists of the sepals, petals, and lip .
PETAL One of the divisions or leaves of corolla
PETIOLE leafstock, slender stalk by which a leaf is attached to the stem.
PHALAENOPSOID Growing like a Phalaenopsis
The female or seed-producing organ of a flower, consisting usually of the ovary, style, and ; in orchid The pistil becomes part of the column and pedicellate ovary
Spores or grains borne by the anther, containing the male element; in orchids, it is usually not granular, as in most other plants
pl. Pollinia
Coherent masses or "packets" of pollen. Orchids have two, four, six, or eight pollinium (packets). The number of pollinia is traditionally considered one of the major factors in defining a genus of an orchid.
The apperatus of the orchid used to transport pollen from one flower to another. The pollination consists ofThe POLLINIA (pollen packets), the CAUDICLE (a stalk-lke appendage), and the VISCIDIUM (a sticky gland)
PRICKLE Small sharp spine or thorn
PROGENY Plants grown from seeds produced by parent plants; offsprings
PROTOCORN The first growth produced by a germinating orchid seed before the growth of leaves.
Thickened or bulb-like stems (called "pseudobulbs" because they are not true bulbs) produced by some SYMPODIAL orchids to store water and food. Only orchids whose habitat has seasonal periods of dryness or drought have adopted this life-saving characteristic.
PUBESCENT Hairy, the hairs short, soft and downy


-- Q --
QUADRIGENERIC Pertaining to four genera; used particularly in reference to hybrids combining members of four genera


-- R --
RACEME A simple unbranched infloresence in which the elongated axis bears flowers on short stems (pedicels) succession toward the apex.
RACHIS The axis of a spike, raceme, or branch of a panicle.
RADICAL Belonging or pertaining to the root or base
RAMIFICATION The mode or style of branching of a plant
REPENT Creeping, and typically rooting at the joints
A process used to purify water by forcing contaminated water through a semipermeable membrane. The membrane allows the water molecules to pass through but not the other substances contaminating the water. Reverse Osmosis is used to commercially purify sea water as well as by hikers to remove impurities from water found along the trail.
The woody parts of the rootstock at the base of the orchid which grows along or just under the surface of the ground or along host. New growth of sympodial orchids always begins at the end of the rhizome.
RINGENT Gaping; said of lipped flowers with an open throat or mouth
Gr. "little beak": Refers to a slender growth of tissue located at the upper part of the column which physically seperates the male and female parts thus providing a barrier to prevent self pollenization. The rostellum also is used to apply a sticky "glue" to the back of the pollinator (usually an insect such as a bee) to attach the POLLINARIUM (the pollen transport system).
ROSETTE A more-or-less dense basal cluster of leaves
RUPICOLOUS Dwelling in or on rocks or stones


-- S --
With a conspicuous hollow swelling. The term is usually used to describe the bag, pouch, or sac-shape of the lip on an orchid flower, like the lip-shape of species in genus Paphiopedilum.
Plants often lacking chlorophyll; receiving nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter; needing the services of certain fungi to be able to absorb food.
SAXICOLOUS Dwelling in or near rocky places; growing on rocks
SCAPE A leafless main flower-stalk arising from the underground or sub-surface parts of a plant (species of Paphiopedilum are a good example); it may bear scales, bracts, and may be one or many-flowered
SECUND To one side, as flowers on an inflorescence.
The pollination by the plant's anthers of either the same flower or a flower on the same plant. In hybrid names, you will often see (x self) in the name of the plant which means it was crossed by the same plant. (see SIBBED)
SEPAL The outermost whorl of flower parts.
SESSILE Without a stalk
SHEATH The tubular base of the leaf surrounding the flower spike
Plants that have the same parentage. In hybrid names, you may see (x sib) in the name. This means the cross of the plant was made using the same parents. (see SELFING)
pl. species
abbrev. sp.
A group of organisms, forming a subdivision of a genus, which have similar characteristics, enabling one species to be identified from its neighbours; a true species persistently breeds true to its main characters.
SPERMATOPHYTE A seed-producing plant
An elongated unbranched inflorescence (flower-cluster) in which the flowers are devoid of pedicels.
Hollow sac-like or tubular extension of the lip, usually nectariferous spurred -having spurs
pl. stamens
or stamina
The male reproductive organ of a flower. In orchids the one or two stamens are part of the column.
STELIDIA Column teeth
Small plants that are formed on flower stems. In some orchids the flower stem has nodes which carry the dormant eyes and can develop into buds or leaves.These new plants are called "keiki".There is a hormone compound called keiki paste that is used in the developmentOf these plantlets. This practice is commonly used on Phalaenopsis.
pl. stigmas
or stigmata
The terminal part of the ovary, at the end of the style, which is receptive to the pollen.
pl. Stipites
A slender, stalk-like stem.
STOMA A breathing pore in the leaf epidermis
STYLE The narrow portion of the pistil which connects the ovary and the, not usually applicable to orchids.
A true-breeding form of a species, often characteristic of a different geographic area, which is not sufficiently distinctTo warrant separate classification.
SUBGENUS One of the divisions into which large genera are sometimes taxonomically divided
SYMBIOSIS Living together of dissimilar organisms with benefit to both.
pl. sympodia
adj. sympodial
Orchids that produce new growth from the base of the plant where the previous growth occured (from the rhizome). The majority of orchids have sympodial growth, the others have a monopodial growth pattern
A single floral part formed by the partial or complete fusion of two or more of the orchid sepals (usually the lateral pair as in a Paphiopedilum).


-- T --
TAPROOT Large main root growing vertically downward
TERETE Elongate and pencil-shaped
Plants that grow in or near ther surface of the ground; growing in soil. Orchids generally are found growing one of three ways: as TERRESTRIALS EPIPHYTES (the majority grow in this manner), or LITHOPHYTES
THROAT In orchids with a tubular lip, used to designate the lower part of the tube
TOMENTOSE Covered with wooly, matted hairs
TRIBE A group of related genera forming a natural division within a family
TUBER Thickened and short subterranean branch having numerous buds or eyes
TUBEROUS Tuber-like; furnished with tubers


-- U --
An indeterminate, convex or flat-topped i` in which the pedicels of the cluster arise from a common point
UNISEXUAL With flowers of one sex only
URCEOLATE Urn-shaped


-- V --
VAGINATE Provided with or surrounded by a sheath
From the genus name Vanda, alluding to any orchid having the characteristics of a Vanda species; large monopodial orchids such as genera Aerides, Arachnis Rhynchostylis, and Renanthera.
VARIEGATED Irregularly colored patterns or colors in leaves, flowers ect.
VARIETY Plant having minor characters or variations which separates it from the type species.
VEGETATIVE Part of a plant not directly concerned with repoduction as the stem and leaves.
VERRUCOSE Covered with or furnished with wart-like projections
pl. Viscidia
A sticky disc-shaped gland located at the base of the caudicle (a slender stalk-like appendage). Used to attach the pollinia (pollen packets) to an insect allowing the pollen to be carried to another flower.


-- W --
WHORL An arrangement of three or more leaves or other organs in a circle about an axis


-- X --
XEROPHYTE A plant which is adapted to live on a limited supply of moisture


-- Z --
ZYGMORPHIC Capable of being divided into two symmetrical halves only by a single longitudinal plane passing through the axis; all orchid flowers are normally zygomorphic
ZYGOTE Any spore formed by conjunction of two gametes (sex cells); loosely, a zygospore.
  Copyright © 1996-2007 Linda Fortner. All rights reserved