Annual: A plant grown from seed, that completes its life cycle (from seed to flowering) in the span of one season.

Anther: The primary ‘male’ reproductive structure at the tip of a flower’s stamen. The anther produces dust-like grains of pollen; which is responsible for fertilizing the ovules and the eventual formation of seeds.

Areole: A specialized spin-bearing structure found on the stems of all members of the cactus family. It is basically a modified stem that spines grow out of in place of leaves.

Aerial Roots: Roots that emerge from above the ground usually from a stem node as additional support for the plant, to enable climbing, or to increase absorption and exchange of nutrients and gases.

Biennial: A plant grown from seed, that completes its life cycle within the span of two growing seasons. The plant spends the first season growing leaves, and flowers and produces seeds in the second season.

Binomial Nomenclature: Also known as the “System of Classification”. The current scientific method of naming species of organisms (plants and animals). The system was developed in the 18th century by Linneus, a Swedish naturalist. Scientific names are commonly in Latin and contain 2 parts; the genus name (the first name always written with a capital letter) and the species name (the second name with a lower case letter). Both names are italicized. ie. Crocus sativa from smallest group to largest group: species, genus, family, order, class, division, kingdom.

Broadcasting: A method of sowing seeds in which you scatter the seeds randomly rather then planting in rows.

Bromeliad: A family of plants from Central and South America that are often of rosette formation. Leaves are often spikey and stiff, with colours ranging from green, red, pink, silver or variegated. A large percentage of this family are epiphytes, air plants that attach themselves to the branches of other plants rather then soil.

Calyx: The outer whorl of sepals which when unfolded protect the unopened forming flower bud. Calyx and sepal are derived from the Greek word for “covering”.

Cellular Respiration: The extraction of energy through the chemical breakdown of stored food molecules. Part of the process of germination.

Corolla: What most people think of as ‘the flower’ – the one or more layers of petals which form around the receptacle. This is most often used as a visual enhancement to attract specific species of insects and birds to aid in pollen transfer.

Cotyledon: Part of the seed from which the seedling draws food. In some cases it is a storage organ, in others it absorbs food from the endosperm for use by the seedling. See Seed Starting: Germination

Cross-pollinator: Plants that require aid from an intervening agent such as insects or wind to pollinate. They either do not contain all the parts in one flower to pollinate themselves or they are self-incompatible. The opposite of cross-pollinator is self-pollinator

Crown: The part of the plant where the roots and stem join.

Damping Off: The death of seedlings by fungal disease, either before or after they emerge from the pod. See Seed Starting: Damping Off

Deadheading: The removal of dead flowers from a plant by pinching the flower (including the ovary) from the stem. This is done to encourage further blooming by preventing the plant from wasting energy by producing seeds.

Dibber: A tool used for making holes in soil to plant bulbs or seedlings in.

Dicot: A plant that has two seed leaves or “cotyledons”. See Seed Starting: Germination

Dormant/Dormancy: A state of suspended activity in which plants cease to grow as a means of protection against harsh weather such as extreme cold or heat.

Epiphyte: Plants that grow on other plants but are not parasites. Epiphytes absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Trees or other plants are merely used as support structures. Orchids, some mosses and lichens, and a species of cacti are all examples of epiphytic plants.

Ethnobotany: The science of tracing the history of humanity by studying the various uses different cultures have had for plants.

Embryo: The immature plant living dormant inside a seed. See Seed Starting: Germination

Endemic: A species which is only found in a certain location and nowhere else. (Plant species can be endemic to a region – for example, Alaska – or to a soil type – for example, serpentine.) .

Endosperm: A food storage organ that surrounds the embryo inside a seed that nourishes the seedling during germination.

Family: One group used in classifying organisms. Families consist of a number of similar genera.

Filament: The slender stalks that hold a flower’s pollen-bearing anthers and form one half of the stamen.

Floral Morphology: The form and structure of flowers and their parts. See The Perfect Flower

Forcing: To prompt a plant to begin growing earlier then it’s normal season using various techniques such as placing the plant in a warm place. Bulb plants such as tulips, narcissus, crocus are often used as well as budding branches such as pussy willow or cherry tree. See Save Your Forced Bulbs

Genus: A group of species of plants that are closely related to one another.

Heirloom: Plant varieties that have remained relatively unchanged in a particular region for several or more generations. They are always open-pollinated.

Hybrid: A plant resulting from the controlled cross-breeding between two plants of the same or closely related species that have distinct characteristics or genes. Plants are cross-bred under controlled conditions to create very specific results.

Inflorescence: A cluster of flowers.

Key: A published algorithm, usually based on a series of dichotomous decisions (does the plant have X or does it have Y?), for plant species identification.

Leaf Mould: Organic matter made from decaying leaves. Added to soil to improve quality.

Monocot: A plant that has one seed leaf or “cotyledon”. See Seed Starting: Germination

Naturalize/Naturalizing: The technique or practice of planting bulbs that are not native to an area in places that will allow them to thrive and multiply on their own with little care. Choose bulbs whose native growing conditions are similar to the area that is to be naturalized.

Node: The point on a plant stem where a leaf or leaves are attached; the point on a stem from which new leaves or stems will grow.

Open-pollinated: Seeds that are the result of random, natural pollination among parent plants of the same or very closely related species. Pollination through human intervention is still considered open-pollination if plants are not bred under a controlled environment to modify the variation according to a very specific goal.

Ovary: At the base of the pistil, a flower’s ‘female’ reproductive system, the ovary contains one or more ovules that require fertilisation by sperm from pollen.

Ovule: The “little eggs” inside a flower’s ovary. The ovules contain an ‘egg’ to be fertilised by one sperm from a pollen tube forming a zygote.

Pedicel: The tip of the flower stalk upon which the stem tip or receptacle sits and bears the parts of the flower.

Perennial: A plant that lives for more than 2 seasons and does not die after flowering. Most perennials die back to the soil surface at the end of each growing season, and come up again at the beginning.

Perianth: Formed of the calyx and the corolla, the perianth is the bulk of what we see as the flower. With petals in a vast array of colours and occasionally even coloured sepals, this structure is all show; it’s shapes, colours, and patterns are geared at attracting insects and birds to aid in pollen transfer.

Petal: The basis of the flower’s corolla, petals can be white, brightly pigmented, and patterned.

Photoperiodism: The response of plants to length of day and night based on the number of hours of light and darkness they receive. An example of a photoperiod response is budding or producing flowers.

Pistil: The whole of the female reproductive system of the flower. The pistil is composed of the ovary, style, and stigma.

Pollen: Developed by the anther, the dust-like grains of pollen have a distinctive shape and elaborately sculptured outer wall. Pollen grains contain two cells, one of which forms a pollen tube with two sperm cells.

Powdery Mildew: A fungal disease that appears as a white powder coating the surface of the leaves. Can be the result of leaves that remain wet for too long with inadequate circulation. Clip back leaves to improve circulation and spray with a baking powder and water mixture or a commercial fungicide.

Propagation: To cause a plant, by various methods; division, taking cuttings, sowing seeds, to multiple from the parent stock.

Pseudobulb: Enlarged, bulbous stem segments that often occur on the stems of epiphytic orchids. The plant uses this to temporarily store water and food during times of drought.

Receptacle: The stem tip that bears the parts of the flower and rests on the pedicel.

Rootbound: A condition in which the roots of a plant have grown entangled in a tight mass, or completely filled a container.

Rosette: A circular cluster of leaves or petals that resemble a rose. In the case of leaves, the stem is short, forcing the leaves close together.

Self Sow: When a plant produces seeds and germinates from seed without assistance. ie. Most wild flowers and several types of annuals will produce seeds, release them into the soil, and produce new plants the following year.

Sepal: These modified leaves act as temporary protective scales around the unopened flower bud. The sepals make up the calyx and are sometimes shed with the opening of the flower’s corolla but can also curl backward behind the first whorl of petals.

Self-incompatible: Plants that contain information that recognizes pollen as foreign material thereby prohibiting self-pollination

Self-pollinator: A plant whose individual flowers contain all the parts to successfully pollinate (transfer pollen from the anther to the stigma) themselves. Often called ‘The Perfect Flower’.

Species: In plant classification, a group of plants with common characteristics that can cross-breed with one another.

Stamen: Arranged around the centre of the inside of the flower, the stamens are the flower’s male reproductive parts. The stamen is composed of the slender stalked filament and the pollen-producing anther.

Stigma: The sticky top of the pistil that receives pollen directly from the anther or in-directly from birds and insects attracted to the flower.

Style: The stalk that elevates the stigma to a position where it can receive pollen.

Succulent: A type of plant that stores up water in its tissues (xerophytic) as an adaptation against drought conditions. Succulents have a fleshy appearance externally and a juicy internal appearance. The cactus family is a member of this group. However, although all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.

Taxonomy: A systematic way of classifying all living organisms.

Tepal: These modified leaves are present in flowers that have no clear distinction between sepals and petals.

Thinning: The act of removing excess seedlings to provide space for remaining seedlings to grow larger and healthier.

Transgenic: An animal or plant containing genetic material from a different species of plant or animal.

Whorl: The ring-like floral structures formed by the pedicel.

Zygote: In sexual reproduction, the product of the union of sperm and egg. In flowers, one of two sperm cells carried by pollen tubes into the ovary unites with an egg held within an ovule forming a zygote.