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.

Also, check out this really helpful beginner’s guide to Botany and Plant Science at


Accessory Fruit – A type of fruit where the fleshy layer comes from a part of the plant other than the ovary, which surrounds multiple seeds. E.g. Pomes and Hips.

Achene – A dry fruit which contains a single seed, and does not open to release the seed at maturity.

Aggregate Fruit – See Compound Drupe.

Aggregate-accessory Fruit – Comes from a single flower with multiple pistils, where the fleshy part of the fruit comes from other than the ovary. Main body is an enlarged, pulpy receptacle. Seeds are in achenes, rather than drupelets. E.g. strawberry.

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 one seed. E.g. plum, cherry, peach, almond, coffee etc.




Multiple Fruit – Similar to Compound Drupes. Created from a number of separate flowers which grow closely together. E.g. mulberry, fig, pineapple.


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.

Pome – A type of accessory fruit (where some of the flesh comes from an area of the plant other than the ovary. Has a fleshy outer layer, surrounding a core of seeds. E.g. rowan, whitebeam, apple, crabapple, cottoneaster, hawthorn, service berries and wintergreen.


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.

sp. – In plant common names, the sp. suffix means that there is only one species.

spp. – In plant common names, the spp. suffix means that there are multiple species of the same genus.

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.

Berry – Contains one or more seeds; the seeds have no hard or stony outer, and are contained in soft, pulpy flesh. E.g. bilberry, blueberry, cranberry, gooseberry, redcurrant, blackcurrant, nightshade.

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.


Ethnobotany – The scientific study of the traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants and their medical, religious, and other uses.


Hip – A type of accessory fruit. It has a collection of nutlets, known as achenes, inside it; surrounded by a fleshy receptacle. The flesh is formed from the enlarged receptacle, rather than the ovary. The nutlets inside are the true fruit. E.g. rose (the rose hip is the only example).








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

Compound Drupe – a.k.a. Aggregate Fruit. This type of fruit comes from a single flower with multiple pistils, creating multiple fruits, known as drupelets. E.g. blackberries and raspberries.

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.

Fruit – Any seed-bearing structure of a flowering plant formed in the plant’s ovary, following flowering. Therefore, also including samaras and nuts for example.




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