This glossary of botanical and horticultural words used in Barbadine's pages is meant to provide help and clarity for those of you who are not familiar with such a vocabulary. There may very well be some mistakes or missing terms, if you spot any of those, please do let us know, and we will correct any wrongly edited thing.


Achene; this is a dry fruit containing only one seed and which does not split open (a hazelnut).

Acuminate; any part of a plant ending in a sharp point.

Acute; sharp or pointed (often a leaf blade).

Adventitious; concerns a shoot or root produced on an uncommon place such as a root on a branch.

Alternate; usually refering to leaves, then a single leaf present at each node, (not opposite). The leaves of Abutilon indicum are alternate.

Androecium; male part of a flower, comprising anthers and filaments which form the stamens.

Apex; the end of an organ (either leaf, branch, filaments...)

Aril; an outgrowth from the hium of a seed and which may cover it and be edible as passionfruits where the edible part is made of arils, see also Datura metel

Awn; a stiff and bristle-like appendage, often at the apex of a leaf, sepal or petal. The sepals of Passiflora coccinea end in a awn.

Axil; the upper angle formed by a leaf and the stem on which it is attached.

Axillary; arising from or related to an axil.


Barbed; with projecting points or bristles.

Bipinnate; refering to a leaf: doubly pinnately compound, the leaf being pinnately divided into pinnae which are divided themselves into leaflets. The leaves of Jacaranda mimosifolia are bipinnate.

Blade; the flat expanded part of an organ, usually refering to a leaf.

Bract; a modified leaf of an inflorescence or flower, often colored and usually mistaken for a petal: the typical case is the bougainvillea where the so-called flowers are indeed bracts.

Bracteole; a small bract.


Caducous; any organ falling at a certain stage of development.

Calyx; the outer part of a flower, made of the often green sepals.

Capitate; head-like or dense cluster.

Carpel; organ containing the female germ cells, may be free or part of an ovary.

Ciliate; fringed with fine and often stiff hairs.

Cluster; close group of similar plants parts, usually flowers or/and fruits. Flowers of Mucuna pruriens are in clusters.

Compound; composed of two or more parts, a compound leaf is made of leaflets.

Cordate; having the shape of a heart. The leaves of Passiflora ligularis are cordate.

Corolla; inner part of a flower, made of the usually colored petals.

Corona; appendage standing between the corolla and stamens or on the corolla, typical of the Passiflora genius.

Corrugate; wrinkled in folds.

Cuneate; wedge-shaped.

Cyme; inflorescence in which the central flowers open first.


Deciduous; same as caducous but usually used for foliage, antonym to evergreen.

Decussate; an arrangement for opposite leaves which successive pairs form a right angle.

Dehiscent; refering to fruits or anthers, which split when mature to release pollen or seeds.

Dentate; toothed, usually refering to a leaf margin.

Didynamous; when a four-stamened androecium displays two short ones and two long ones. (Asarina erubescens)

Digitate; a composed leaves which leaflets radiate from a point like fingers in an open hand.

Dioecious; unisexual, with male and female parts on separate plants.

Drupe; fruit usually fleshy, with a hard stone and a single seeds, a prune is a drupe.


Ellipsoid; three dimensionally elliptic.

Elliptic; oval and narrowing at both ends.

Endemic; native to a specific geographical area, Reunion has various endemic species such as Latania lontaroides.

Entire; without teeth, lobes, serrations, usually refers to a leaf margin.

Epicarp; the outer-most layer of fruits.

Epiphytic; a plant growing on another one but not as parasitic, like Tillandsia usneoides



Falcate; sickle or scythe-shaped.

Filament; the part of a stamen which supports the anthers, also the appendices constituing the corona of the passionflowers, as seen on Passiflora edulis.

Filiform; thread-like.

Foliaceus; leaf-like or leafy.

Funicle; a thread-like appendice connecting the ovary wall to the ovule and which stays on the seed for species like Acacia auriculiformis


Genus; a group of plants sharing some common characteristics usualy made of several species.

Glabrous; devoid of hairs.

Glaucous; covered by a bluish-green or whitish bloom.

Globose; spherical or close to it. The fruit of Passiflora maliformis is globose.


Habit; the general shape or form of a plant.

Hastate; triangular shape, like an arrow head with basal lobes directing outwards.

Heterophylly;a plant which displays different shaped and/or colored leaves while young and old, typical of many tropicale species and often found amongst endemics of the Mascareignes.

Hirsute; hairy with stiff hair, not silky.

Hispid; pubescent with short bristly hairs.


Imbricate; overlapping, like tiles do.

Incised; cut rather deeply (leaf margin).

Indehiscent; for a fruit which does not open when ripe to release the seeds.

Internode; the part of a stem between two nodes.

Involucre; the outer, often green, bracts of a flower cluster or head.


Keeled; shaped like a boat's keel.


Lamina; same as blade: expanded flat part of a leaf or petal.

Lanceolate; lance-shaped, usually two or three times longer than broad.

Leaflet; a single divison in a compound leave.

Ligulate; tongue-shaped.

Linear; long and narrow.

Lobed; divided into segments (often the leaves).


Maculate; orned with spots or blotches.

Monoecious; with separate male and female flowers on a same plant.

Mucronate; ending in a short sharp point, same as awned.

Muricate; covered with short points, as the fruit of Annona muricata.


Nectary; any organ or part where nectar is secreted.

Nerve; the usually conspicuous nerves of a leaf.

Node; the point of a stem where the leaf is attached.


Ob-; indicates the reverse of a shape: obcordate is inversely cordate.

Oblong; elliptical with nearly parallel sides, twice as long as wide.

Obtuse; blunt, not acute, usually the end of a leaf.

Opposite; of leaves: attached at opposite sides of the stem, by pairs at each node.

Ovary; the female part of the flower which contains the ovules.

Ovate or ovoid; having the shape of an egg.


Palmate; a leaf with lobes divided like the spread fingers of an open hand.

Panicle; a branched raceme.

Pappus; an egret found attached on some seeds, which greatly helps wind dispersing such as for Senecio macroglossus.

Patelliform; in the shape of a disc or saucer.

Peduncle; the stalk of either a single flower or an inflorescence.

Peltate; attached by a point inside the margin, not on the edge (peltate leaf like nasturtium).

Perennial; a plant growing for more than two years.

Perianth; the non-reproductive elements of the flower (calyx plus corolla).

Pericarp; the part of a fruit resulting from the ovary walls development.

Petiole; leaf stalk.

Pinnate; describing a leaf, which leaflets are on each side of a stalk or rachis.

Pistil; the organ composed of ovary, stigma and style.

Plicate; folded into plaits, like a fan.

Pod; dry dehiscent capsule, the flamboyant (Delonix regia) fruits are giant pods as well as Entada rheedii

Prickle; stiff sharp-pointed spine.

Pubescent; bearing short soft hairs.


Raceme; elongated often pendulous inflorescence of stalked flowers on a common rachis. The flowers of Cassia fistula are born into racemes.

Rachis; central axis of an inflorescence or pinnate leaf.

Recurved; curved downwards or backwards.

Reticulate; looking like a net-work, seeds of various passiflora are reticulate.

Rhizome; an underground creeping stem, the usual way of propagating Alpinia zerumbet.

Rosette; an often spreading cluster of leaves, usually at ground level.


Sagittate; in the shape of an arrow-head.

Scabrous; with a rough or gritty surface.

Sepal; one of the often green part of the calyx.

Serrate; usually used for a leaf-margin: saw-toothed with the teeth pointing forward.

Sessile; devoid of stalk or peduncle.

Simple; usually of a leaf: not compound, not divided into leaflets.

Species; group of similar plants which can freely interbreed.

Specific; pertaining or related to a species.

Stigma; the upper part of the pistil designed to receive the pollen.

Stipules; leaf-like structure at the point of junction between stem and petiole.

Striate; marked with fine parallel lines or stripes.

Style; the elongated portion of the pistil connecting the ovary and the stigma.


Tendril; thread-like process, branched or not, used for attachment, a common device amongst passionflowers and other climbers (Cardiospermum halicacabum).

Terete; more or less cylindrical.

Tomentose; densely hairy with wooly hair.

Truncate; abruptly ending as if cut off.


Undulate; wavy but on a larger idea than corrugated would imply.


Variety; a subdivision in a species, ranking below a subspecies.

Veins; thread-like vascular tissues in a leaf.

Villous; pubescent with long soft weak hairs.


 Whorl; three or more organs inserted on an axis (leaves or flowers).