Botanical Glossaries

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species, Extension Master Gardener February 10, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

A botanical glossary can be a useful tool. The botanical terms used to describe plants can be confusing. Taking the time to learn them is worthwhile if you are working with plants, reading about plants, or teaching others about plants. A single descriptive botanical term can replace a phrase or even a couple of sentences that otherwise would be needed to describe a plant feature.

Learning botanical terms is easier than it seems at first. Many plant names and terms are derived from Latin. Once you learn some of the basics, the rest starts to make more sense. For example, the word tridentate, which breaks down to tri (meaning "three") and dentate (meaning "toothed"), is used to describe a leaf that is three-toothed. A tridentate leaf has three tooth-like pointed or rounded projections. Anytime you see tri in a botanical term, it means "three" of something. Anytime you see dentate in a botanical term, it means "toothed." Botanical terms are the same for invasive plant species as for native flora. 

To help make learning botanical terms easier, see the following online glossaries:

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.