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Glossary of plant terms

Search our dictionary of 3,300 botanical and plant-related terms – the largest online.
Or browse the descriptions and definitions using the A-Z.


Means "relating to cows" in Latin.


A name for a cavity inside a cell cytoplasm. Plant cells often have a vacuole containing sap which is separated from the cytoplasm by a membrane called the "tonoplast".


Means "having a sheath" in Latin.


Means "well developed - strong" in Latin.


One of the parts into which a capsule splits.

vapourer moth

Brightly coloured caterpillars feed on foliage causing considerable damage.


Means "variable" in Latin.


Having lighter (or coloured) areas or markings such as on a leaf or flower, due to genetic inheritance or mutation, or possibly due to infection. Variegated leaves for example are often green and white or yellow where some cells in the leaf tissue have less green chlorophyll pigment; such plants are usually less vigorous and do not tolerate shade so well.


Means "variegated" in Latin.


The botanical reference to a variety which is group of plants within a species with one or more distinctive characteristics.


A group of plants within a species with one or more distinctive characteristics, e.g. a marked colour variation, unusual leaf form etc. Varieties may have a distinct geographical range. There is a botanical convention on nomenclature that variety or subspecies or form names are in lower case if they are of natural origin, and printed with initial capital letters if they are human-made or cultivars. (Often the cultivar name is placed in quotes but in this package the cultivar names are not placed in quotes since they are distinguished by having initial capital letters.) Variety may be abbreviated to var.


A collective term for the xylem and phloem. Xylem is made up of vessels and fibres, which transport water and mineral nutrients around the plant. Phloem is composted of sieve cells or sieve tubes, which transport nutrients in a soluble form (including sugars). In less woody stems the xylem and phloem tissues are in strands called "vascular bundles".


Means "pot-shaped or pan-shaped" in Latin.


Refers to a mechanism of transfer of a disease; this may be via an insect such as a beetle which is the vector for the fungal disease known as Dutch Elm Disease.


General term that describes plants that provide edible parts which are not fruit. Examples are potatoes, carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers etc. However, plants such as tomatoes and marrows are often referred to as vegetables but are in fact fruits.

vegetative propagation

Propagation from a part of the plant, i.e. offsets, cuttings, division of roots, or layering of a stem, rather than by sowing seeds. The offspring from vegetative propagation are identical to the parent plant and are therefore 'clones'.


Means "vigorous growing" in Latin.


Strands of conducting and strengthening tissues running through the leaf, and other organs.


Covered with a velvety indumentum.


Means "velvety" in Latin.


Referring to the arrangement of veins.


Means "poisonous - venomous" in Latin.


In a greenhouse or other enclosed environment the circulation of air is important to maintain the optimal levels of temperature and humidity. Generally excess heat will cause wilting, and too cool a temperature will slow the rate of growth. Too high a humidity can lead to fungal disease problems. The use of adjustable vents and fans can be used to keep conditions within the desired range. (Correct ventilation is also important to avoid storage rot when harvested crops such as carrots, strawberries, apples etc are transported and stored.)


Referring to lateral organs; the side towards the main axis. The same as adaxial.


Refers to a plant organ that is swollen more on one side than the other.


Means "worm-like" in Latin.


An artificial plant growing medium manufactured from mica rock particles which have been heated at a high temperature. The expanded granules are very water absorbent yet free-draining and therefore it is often added as a soil conditioner to composts. Vermiculite can be used for a rooting medium. (Vermiculite is also used for house insulation.)


Meaning "appearing in the spring".


Methods to "fool" seeds into behaving as if they have been through a winter, in order to prepare them for germination when sufficient moisture, temperature and light are provided.


Refers to the arrangement of leaves in a bud, which can be a method of identification.


Means "of the spring" in Latin.


With a wart-like or nodular surface.


Arranged in a ring or whorl.


Means "whorled" in Latin.

verticillium wilt

This is a fungal disease that causes brown markings on the stems and the plants usually begin to wilt. The disease can infect a range of herbaceous plants and some shrubs and trees.


Means "true" in Latin.


Refers to a small cavity or bladder-like sac which may be filled with air or water.


Means "white" in Latin.

viable seed

Refers to seed that is able to germinate.


Means "of the wayside" in Latin.

Viburnum beetle

Leaves are eaten by adults and larvae of a beetle.

Viburnum scale

Upper leaf surface becomes sticky and black sooty moulds develop following a sap-feeding insect.

Viburnum whitefly

In mid-summer young leaves have flat, oval, yellowish scales. Black, sooty moulds may develop.


Means "neighbouring" in Latin.


Refers to the relative growing strength of a plant.


Means "shaggy with hairs" in Latin.


Having long, soft hairs.


Means "with slender shoots" in Latin.

vine erinose mite

Areas of grape vine leaves bulge, undersides of these areas are covered in a dense mat of white hairs.

vine weevil

A pest of roses, rhododendrons and other shrubs and fruits where the entire plant may wilts without visible explanation. It is caused by beetle-like insects attacking the root system.


Means "wine-producing" in Latin.

violet gall midge

Leaves become thickened and rolled where maggots cocoon themselves.

violet rot root

Disease affecting carrot where the roots become felted with purple mould, many plants are killed.


Means "green" in Latin.


Refers to the appearance of green chlorophyll pigmentation in plant organs that would not normally be green.


Means "twiggy" in Latin.


Means "pure white - virginal" in Latin.


Means "green" in Latin.


Means "poisonous" in Latin.


Single-celled, sub-microscopic organisms that reproduce themselves inside the living cells of a plant or animal. Infection by viruses can cause a wide range of diseases often showing symptoms of blotching or mottling of the leaves and flowers. Viruses can be transmitted by vectors such as sap-sucking insects, by vegetative propagation or possibly by careless use of secateurs. Growers often propagate susceptible plants from virus-free stock. Infected plants are generally dealt with by lifting and burning.


Means "clammy" in Latin.


Meaning "sticky".


Means "sticky - viscous" in Latin.


These are organic compounds required in relatively small amounts for the proper functioning of the organism. Most plants are able to synthesize all the vitamins they require, although some vitamins may be gained from the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi at the roots. Humans and other animals cannot generally synthesize all the vitamins they need, and therefore need to get essential vitamins in their diet, usually from plants. Vitamin C for example can be obtained from fresh citrus fruit and other plants.


This is the cultivation of vines.


Means "vine-leaved" in Latin.


Means "glassy" in Latin.


Sprouting and germinating on the parent plant, such as in Tolmiea menziesii (Mother of thousands) where plantlets are produced on mature leaves.


The small rodents gnaw away the bark on the stems and roots, causing a dieback.


Means "twining" in Latin.


Means "common" in Latin.


Means "healing" in Latin.


Means "foxy" in Latin.

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