Glossary of Botanical Terminology for Foragers

The more I learn about trees, plants and flowers, the more I realise that there is quite a lot of botanical terminology that would help. It’s not essential to know this stuff, but I’ve found that learning comes quicker if you do.

So, I thought it might be a good idea to have a kind of Glossary of botanical terms.

I’ve also added some diagrams at the bottom of the page to help explain some of the terms.


Annual – A plant which flowers, disperses seeds and dies in it’s first year.

Anther – The Anther is the end of the “male” part of a flower (Stamen) which holds and disperses the pollen.


Drupe – A fruit in which an outer fleshy part (Skin and flesh), surrounds a shell (pit or stone) containing the seed. E.g. Plum, Cherry, Peach etc.





Palmate – A leaf with five or more lobes, whose midribs all radiate out from one point. E.g. Horse Chestnut.

Peduncle – A stalk or stem, supporting a leaf, flower, fruit or nut.

Perennial – A plant that lives for two or more years. E.g. Mint.

Petal – Modified leaves surrounding the reproductive organs of a flower. Usually brightly coloured to attract insects and birds.

Petiole – A Petiole is a the stalk that attaches a leaf to the stem of a plant.

Pinnate – Compound leaf having leaflets on either side of a stem, typically in opposite pairs. E.g. Rowan. Pinnate comes from a word meaning “feather”.

Pistil – The “female” reproductive part of a plant, containing one or more Carpels, each including the ovary, style and stigma.

Pollen – The powdery mass shed from the Anthers of flowers. This is the microspore of seed plants.


Samara – A winged type of fruit, in which a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue develops from the ovary wall to help it spread further from the parent. E.g. Hornbeam.

Sepal – Sepals tend to be small and green, and they protect the flower bud before it opens. They also remain and sometimes support the petals once the flower has opened.

Stamen – The Stamen is the “male” reproductive parts of a flower, consisting of the Filament and the Anther.

Stem – The plant axis, either aerial or subterranean, which bears nodes, leaves, branches and flowers.

Stigma – The receptive tip of the “female” reproductive parts of a flower, where the pollen germinates.

Style – An elongated part of a carpel, or group of fused carpels, between the Ovary and the Stigma.

Stomata – A tiny opening or pore used for gas exchange. Usually found on the underside of plant leaves, Found in rows on the underside of needle leaves.




Basal – Coming from the base of the plant. E.g. Basal shoots from a Hazel tree.

Basal Leaf – A leaf that grows from the lowest part of the stem. E.g. Greater Plantain.

Biennial – A plant that flowers and dies in it’s second year, after storing energy in it’s tap root from the first year. E.g. Burdock.

Bract – A specialised or modified leaf especially associated with flowers and cone scales. E.g. The “snake-tongue” like projection from Douglas Fir cone scales.










Carpel – The basic “female” reproductive organ in flowers, consisting of Ovary, Style and Stigma.

Compound Leaf – Made up of multiple leaflets. In autumn, the whole structure dies back, leaving no empty stalk behind (in deciduous trees). E.g. Rowan.

Cyme – A flower cluster in which the first flower is the terminal bud of the main stem. Subsequent flowers develop as terminal buds of lateral stems. E.g. Red Campion.


Filament – Part of the Stamen, which attaches the Anthers to the flower.




Ovary – The base of a carpel or group of fused carpels.


Raceme – A flower cluster, having stalked flowers, arranged singly along a single axis, with the flowers nearest the branch flowering first. E.g. Wild Cherry.

Rhizome – A modified stem (not root) of a plant that is usually found underground or under water; Often sending out shoots and roots from it’s nodes. E.g. Cat’s Tail.


Umbel – A flower cluster, in which stalks of nearly equal length spring from a common centre, and form a flat or curved surface (like an umbrella). E.g. Cow Parsley.



Sources: Paul Kirtley –, Wikipedia