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The terms listed here are just a drop in the bucket. See the links page for more info on botanical terms.
Regular flowers are generally round and have petal-like parts (what appears to be a petal isn't always a true petal) of similar size and shape radiating from the center. Icons show the most common number of petal-like parts for a species:
- Irregular: flower is not generally round, or its petal-like parts are dissimilar in size or shape.
- Indistinct: flower has no discernable petal-like parts or they otherwise cannot be distinguished.
- Bell: flowers have fused petals and hang downward; any lobes are similar in size and shape.
- Tube: (or funnel-shaped) also have fused petals but flowers are proportionately longer and narrower than Bell types. Lobes on tubular flowers are often dissimilar in size or shape.
A cluster is a tightly formed group of flowers. 6 basic shapes are used on this site, though there are many variations of these that you would find in more technical references. For purposes of easy identification, go by what it looks like, even though that may not be technically correct.
- Flat or convex: at the end of multiple stalks that may or may not come from the same point on the main stem.
- Round or oval: at the end of a stem.
- Spike: at the end of a stem, usually tightly packed; individual flowers have no stalk.
- Raceme: differs from a spike in that each flower is stalked; flowers may be on one or all sides of the stem and tend to be more widely spaced than on a spike, though sometimes the difference is subtle.
- Panicle: a branching cluster, often open but may be more tightly packed.
- Whorl: flowers surrounding the stem at the same point, usually at leaf joints (axils) but may be at the top of the stem; flowers may or may not be stalked.
Leaves are attached to the main stem in a number of different ways and some plants will have more than one type of attachment. For simplicity, I use just the following:
- Alternate: leaves are attached to the stem in an alternating pattern. There may or may not be a leaf stalk.
- Opposite: 2 leaves opposite each other. There may or may not be a leaf stalk.
- Whorl: 3 or more leaves attached at the same point around the stem.
- Basal: leaves at the base of the plant, often surrounding the main stem in a rosette pattern, but may be detached.
While there are many leaf shapes, only a few basic types are used on this site:
- Compound: 2 or more distinct small leaves (leaflets) that arise from a single stalk, considered 1 leaf as a whole. When 3 or more leaves arise from a central point, it is palmately compound
- Simple: not divided into multiple leaflets, though on some plants individual leaves may be divided or lobed , and leaflets in a compound leaf can also be lobed.
- Berry or drupe: fleshy or pulpy fruit with an outer skin, typically round or oval but sometimes angular. A drupe usually contains a singe seed, berries usually have more.
- Capsule or pod: dry fruit containing multiple seeds. They typically burst (dihesce) when seeds are ripe
- Seed with plume: dry seed with a tuft of hairs attached
- Seed without plume: dry seed without a tuft of hairs
- Barbed: “sticktight” capsule or seed with hooked hairs or awns that attach to anything that passes by.