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Glossary of Wildflower Terms

For anyone planning to go on an organised flower holiday, understanding some of the more common terms that may be used will provide a good head start.

A dedicated flower holiday affords amateur botanists, or those who simply appreciate the aesthetics of nature, the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of wild flora in its native habitat. A professional flower holiday will include the company of an experienced naturalist, and understanding a few of the more common terms used by wildflower experts can be very helpful when out in the field. While there are some terms you might never need to know (lignify, mycorrhiza, rhizome, for example), others are more commonplace and may indeed crop up during the course of a flower holiday.

A Glossary of Wildflower Terms

Adventitious: Where buds and/or roots appear in unusual and abnormal places on a stem. (Note: This is not just a botanical term, however, and can refer to any fortuitous or unintentional occurrence.)

Allogamy: Aka cross pollination, when the female of a species is fertilised by the pollen of a male of the same species – including on a different plant. Conversely, autogamy is the process of self-pollination.

Anthocynanins: Pigments contained in the plants that produce rich red and purple hued flowers. Anthoxanthins are the yellow pigments.

Carpel: The overarching term for the female reproductive organ of a flower, which includes the stigma, ovary and style.

Calyx: The collective of sepals (outer part of the flower), which are usually green and leafy and enclose the petals.

Cleistogamous: Self-pollinating plants that produce flowers with petals and sepals that never open.

Corolla: The inner petals of the bloom, often referred to as a "whorl".

Epicalyx: A second layer of sepals, set below the calyx.

Fall Petal: One of usually multiple outer petals (specifically of the iris) that bow or droop downwards.

Herbaceous: Categorises a plant that has no major stem above ground and dies at the end of the season (although some can be perennial), leaving its seeds to produce the new plant.

Hyperchromic: A plant containing an excessive quantity of pigmentation, which causes a rich, intense colouring in the flowers and/or leaves.

Inflorescence: A complete group of flowers (the head) emanating from a single stem. The term includes the stalks and minor stems. Inflorescence can also refer to the actual process of flowering.

Monocarpic: A plant that flowers just once and then dies off.

Nectary: The glandular organ that produces and secretes the nectar, which can be located in the flower or the stem.

Panicle: A loose cluster of branching stalks with flowers.

Pedicel: Simply another name for the stalk of a flower.

Scape: A flower-bearing stem that has no leaves.

Spur: A hollow receptacle protruding from a flower containing nectar.

Standard petal: Or simply the "standard". This is the petal of the flower that faces towards the stem of the plant and can also be called the keel or wing.

Sympetalous: A flower that has all of its petals united or fused, forming into a long, tubular shape.

Umbel: A cluster of flowers with a domed or flat appearance, with multiple stems originating from the same place.

A Useful Overview

While it's certainly not necessary to have an in-depth vocabulary of botanical terms to enjoy the experience of a flower holidayFeature Articles, knowing just these few may inspire you to learn more about what is a truly fascinating and rewarding subject.




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Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in wildflowers. As a passionate lover of botany, Marissa often chooses an expert-led flower holiday organised by Naturetrek, many of which have brought her unforgettable encounters with a wide range of plant species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.


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