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Ever wonder what a distichous leaf arrangement is? Not sure what tomentum is? Then this glossary is for you! You don't have to be a palm expert to appreciate the beauty and diversity of palms, so we don't think you should have to be an expert to be able to order the seeds to grow them. In an effort to make our site more user friendly for the lay gardener, or for those who simply are not conversant with palm terminology, we have added a glossary of terms commonly used throughout this site. Included here are terms that even the good palm glossaries have left out, perhaps because the authors thought they were "too simple," and, perhaps more importantly, we have avoided using even more complex terminology in our definitions. (After all, if you are unsure what a spathe is, then will finding out it's a "sheathing bract enclosing a young inflorescence" really help you?)

The glossary includes a listing of words in the form or forms in which they are used in the site, followed by sample usage (in parenthesis) if important for clarification; the form or "part of speech" in italics (adj. = adjective, adv. = adverb, n. = noun, or v. = verb); the plural, if unusual; and finally, the definition.

spicate (~ inflorescence) adj. : unbranched, spike-like.

In this example, the term "spicate" is being defined. In parenthesis is an example of how spicate (the ~ symbol stands for the vocabulary word being defined, here "spicate") is used in the text, i.e. a "spicate inflorescence." Since spicate is used here to describe inflorescence, it takes the form of an adjective (adj.). The definition of spicate then follows: "unbranched, spike-like."

Note: any time the ~ symbol appears in the definition, insert the vocabulary word being defined. For instance, after the basic definition of "pinnate," we further explain what it means to be "evenly," "finely," or "sparsely" pinnate in this fashion: "evenly ~, leaflets are the same shape and distance from each other".

  Term Sample usage Part of sp. Definition
  aerial root   n. grows above ground instead of below; usually supports the trunk, then also called a "stilt root"
  apex (leaf ~, leaflet ~) n. tip
  arching (~ leaves, ~ leaflets) adj. having a curved or arch shape, not erect
  armament   n. protection; see also "armed"
  armed    adj. having spines or thorns
  ascending (~ leaves) adj. upward growing
  bifid (~ leaves, ~ leaflet apexes, ~ fibers) adj. divided or forked into two parts, or deeply notched
  bipinnate (~ leaf) adj. twice divided, featherlike leaf
  blade (leaf ~) n. flat or expanded part of the leaf; the part that is palmate or pinnate
  bloom   n. thin, waxy film covering the surface of a leaf or other part of a plant
  bract   n. leaflike structure on the inflorescence, typically protecting parts of the young inflorescence (see also "inflorescence bract," "peduncular bract," and "bracteole")
  bracteole   n. small bract subtending a flower (see also "bract")
  branched (~ stem, ~ inflorescence, ~ leaflet) adj. split into two or more parts
  bulbous (~ trunk) adj. bulging, swollen, bulb-shaped
  cabbage (palm ~) n. edible growth center of a palm, usually called heart-of-palm
  cane   n. thin or reedlike stem or trunk
  cirrus   n. [pl. cirri] long extention of the leaf midrib with hooks used by the plant to climb, whiplike climbing organ (see also "flagellum")
  climbing palm   n. has a long, thin trunk that uses other trees for support
  clump   n. group or cluster
  clumping (~ palm) adj. forming clumps or groups (see also "clustering" and "suckering")
  clustering (~ palm, ~ habit) adj. growing side shoots and developing into groups of stems (see also "clumping" and "suckering")
  coco-fiber   n. planting compost made from coconut husks
  cone of stilt roots   n. mass of stilt or aerial roots forming a cone shape
  conical (~ trunk) adj. shaped like a cone
  conservatory   n. greenhouse for tender plants
  container plant   n. grown in a container or pot instead of the ground, typical for nursery production
  costa   n. the part of the leaf stalk extending into the leaf blade in a costapalmate leaf
  costapalmate (~ leaves) adj. shaped like the palm of a hand with part of the leaf stalk extending into the leaf blade
  crown   n. head of leaves
  crownshaft   n. tubular leaf sheaths or leaf bases tightly wrapped around each other forming a cylinder on top of the trunk
  cultivar   n. distinct form of a plant in cultivation, for instance dwarf or variegated
  cultivate   v. to grow or raise, aided by humans vs. wild grown
  dichotomous (~ stem) adj. equally forking
  diminutive (~ palm) adj. undersized
  distichous (~ leaf arrangement) adj. arranged in two opposing rows on either side of a trunk
  distribution   n. area of natural occurance
  divided (~ leaves, ~ leaflets) adj. not entire
  dwarf (~ palm) adj. small or undersized
  elliptic (~ leaflets, ~ leaves) adj. like a flattened circle or oval in shape
  endemic   adj. growing only in a specific area
  entire (~ leaves, ~ leaflets) adj. undivided, whole
  erect (~ trunk, ~ leaves, ~ leaflets) adj. stiffly upward or upright
  fan (~ leaf) adj. palmate; shaped like the palm of a hand, semicircular or circular, with leaf segments radiating from a single point
  feather (~ leaf) adj. pinnate, divided in segments like a feather
  feather-duster (~ crown) adj. shaped like a feather-duster or shuttlecock
  fibrous   adj. having or made up of fibers
  fissured (~ trunk) adj. having clefts or splits
  flagellum   n. [pl. flagella] whiplike climbing organ with hooked spines, derived from a flower stalk. (see also "cirrus")
  flange   n. flat ridge or protrusion; also called a wing
  flexuous   adj. lax or flexible
  flower   n. reproductive organ
  flush   n. fresh, new growth
  forked   adj. divided into two equal parts
  fronds   n. leaves of palms, ferns, or the like
  fruit   n. seed-bearing organ
  genus   n. group of closely related species (for example, Trachycarpus, Sabal, Phoenix, etc.) in the Linnean system of biological taxonomy & classification
  germinate   v. to sprout a seed
  glaucous   adj. dull grayish green or blue usually created by a waxy bloom covering a surface
  habit (clustering ~) n. mode of growth
  habitat   n. natural environment in which a plant grows
  hardy (cold ~) adj. able to withstand adverse conditions for prolonged periods of time (see also "tolerant")
  hastula   n. protrusion at the joint between leafstalk and leafblade in a palmate leaf
  humus (~ rich soil) n. decomposing organic matter
  hybrid   n. or adj. offspring of two plants of different species or genera, not pure
  inflorescence   n. flower stalk
  inflorescence bract   n. a leaflike structure on the rachis of the flowerstalk subtending a partial flowerstalk (see also "bract")
  infructescence   n. fruit stalk; like an inflorescence but in fruit vs. in flower
  interandean (~ valleys) adj. dry, high altitude valleys between the main ridges of the Andes mountains in South America
  internode   n. space between "nodes" or points of leaf attachment on a trunk or stem
  irregular (~ly arranged) adv. or adj. unevenly arranged, leaflets are inserted at different distances from each other
  lanceolate (~ leaflets) adj. shaped like a spearhead, tapering to each end
  leaf base   n. lower, expanded part of the leaf that attaches to the trunk
  leaf blade   n. lamina; upper, expanded part of the leaf; part most commonly thought of as the leaf itself
  leaf segment   n. section of a palmate or costapalmate leaf
  leaf sheath   n. leaf base or lowest part of the leaf that is enveloping or "sheathing" the trunk. Tubular while developing, then splitting or remaining entire (if entire, then it is called a "crownshaft")
  leaf stalk   n. petiole; part of leaf found between the base and the blade
  leaflet   n. segment of a pinnate leaf
  leathery   adj. having a texture like leather, thick and strong vs. papery
  marbled   adj. showing various colors in blotches; mottled
  midrib   n. main vein of a leaflet
  montane   adj. specific zone of altitude in mountains, at least 500 m (1600 ft.)
  mottled   adj. having blotches of various colors; marbled
  mulch   n. top dressing (wood chips, peat, straw, leaves, etc.) around a plant's roots
  mulch   v. to apply a top dressing
  nodal scar   n. scar left on the stem where a leaf was attached
  nodding (~ leaves, ~ leaflets) adj. drooping
  node   n. point where a leaf is or was attached to the stem; see also "internode"
  notch   n. small V-shaped cut in leaf or leaflet
  orbicular (~ leaf blade) adj. spherical or circular, like an orb
  palmate (~ leaf) adj. shaped like a fan, or the palm of a hand, semicircular or circular, with leaf segments radiating from a single point
  peat   n. decomposed peat moss, partly carbonized
  peduncle   n. inflorescence stalk
  peduncular bract   n. a leaflike structure subtending the inflorescence stalk
  pendent   adj. drooping
  pendulous (~ leaflets) adj. drooping, suspended (strongly ~, hanging vertically)
  petiole   n. leaf stalk, located between the base and the blade
  pinna   n. [pl. pinnae] primary leaflet of a pinnate leaf
  pinnate (~ leaves, ~ palm) adj. featherlike in appearance with leaflets on either side of the leaf midrib [rachis] (regularly ~, leaflets are the same distance from each other; finely ~, having thin pinnae; sparsely ~, having few pinnae)
  pinnule   n. secondary leaflet of a bipinnate leaf
  plumose (~ leaves) adj. bushy, feathery; having leaflets orientated in different directions
  pollen   n. plant "sperm"
  pollination   n. transference of genetic material through the pollen from a male flowering organ to a female flowering organ
  pot plant   n. usually grown in a pot inside a house vs. in the greenhouse or outside
  prickly (~ crownshaft) adj. indicates it has spines
  pseudostem   n. literally "false stem," looks like a stem but is actually tightly packed leafbases
  pseudotrunk   n. literally "false trunk," looks like a trunk but is actually tightly packed leafbases
  pubescence   n. felt of hairs
  rachis   n. midrib of a leaf or inflorescence
  recurved (~ leaves) adj. strongly arching
  regular (~ outline) adj. even
  rein   n. threadlike tissue connecting the leaftips of developing leaves in pinnate palms
  rhizome   n. underground stem or rootstock
  ring   n. nodal scar
  ring scars   n. internodes
  ringed (~ trunk) adj. having nodal scars
  roof-shaped   adj. reduplicate; A-shaped in cross section (as opposed to induplicate or "valley-shaped")
  root hardy   adj. surviving the winter underground by the means of rhizomes, bulbs, etc
  rotund   adj. rounded
  runners   n. long, extended rhizomes
  savanna   n. dry tropical or subtropical grassland or very open forest
  scale   n. dry, flattened plates
  seed   n. mature ovule
  seedling   n. very young plant, recently germinated
  segment   n. section of a palmate or costapalmate leaf
  self-cleaning (~ trunk) adj. the leaves falling off completely, leaving a smooth trunk
  serpentine (~ soil) adj. mineral or rock that is rich in magnesium. Soil derived from serpentine is ultrabasic and poor in nutrients
  sheath   n. leaf base or lowest part of the leaf that is enveloping or "sheathing" the trunk. Tubular while developing, then splitting or remaining entire (if entire, then it is called a "crownshaft"); (see "leaf sheath")
  sheathing   v. enveloping the trunk or another organ of the plant
  shuttlecock (~ crown) adj. looking like a feather-duster or the tail feathers of a rooster
  sickle-shaped   adj. curved, wide at one end, tapering towards the other
  side shoot   n. sucker or sprout off the main trunk
  simple (~ leaves) adj. undivided
  sinker   n. the elongated leaf stalk of the first leaf (shoot) produced in some palms after germination, whose purpose is to push the plant down into the soil
  site   v. to place in the landscape
  solitary (~ palm, ~ stem, ~ trunk) adj. not suckering, only producing a single stem
  spathe   n. sheathing bract that encloses and protects the young flower stalk
  species   n. taxonomic group of closely related plants with common characteristics that set it apart from another group. Subdivision of a genus in the Linnean system of biological taxonomy & classification (for example, fortunei, martianus, humilis etc.; see also "genus")
  sphagnum   n. fresh peat moss
  spicate (~ inflorescence) adj. unbranched, spikelike
  spike   n. inflorescence, usually unbranched
  spine   n. protruding, thornlike protective organ
  spreading (~ crown) adj. expansive, not upright
  sprout   n. germinated seed
  stalk   n. see "leaf stalk," "flower stalk," etc
  stem   n. main axis of a plant; trunk
  stilt root   n. prop root, grows above ground instead of below and supports the trunk (also see: "aerial root")
  stratification   v. process of planting seed in moist sand and exposing it to low temperatures to trigger germination
  subcanopy   n. plants in a forest that grow taller than the understorey but do not quite reach the canopy
  subterranean   adj. underground
  subtropical   adj. climatic region between temperate and tropical
  sucker   n. sideshoot or sprout off the main trunk
  suckering (~ trunk, ~ stem) adj. clumping, clustering vs. solitary
  tap root   n. thick root that grows vertically into the soil to tap a source of water
  taxonomy   n. classification of plants or animals
  temperate   adj. roughly, a climate where the yearly amplitudes of temperature are greater than the daily amplitudes
  tolerant   adj. suggests a plant will tolerate conditions for a limited period of time but is not necessarily "hardy" towards those conditions (see also "hardy")
  tomentose   adj. covered with fine scales, fur, hair, or wool
  tomentum   n. layer of thin scales, fur, hair, or wool
  toothed (~ leaf, ~ leaflet, ~ leafstalk) adj. with toothlike edges
  tristichous (~ leaf arrangement) adj. arranged in three vertical rows on a trunk
  tropical   adj. roughly, a climatic area where the daily amplitudes of temperature are greater than the yearly amplitudes. Geogaphically located roughly between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the South
  trunk   n. stem
  trunkless   adj. without a trunk or with a subterranean trunk
  undergrowth   n. lowest layer of plants in a forest
  understorey   n. lower layers of plants in a forest that do not reach the canopy and are shade loving
  undivided (~ leaves) adj. entire, whole, not broken down into segments or leaflets
  undulate   adj. wavy
  upright (~ crown, ~ leaves, ~ trunk) adj. erect, vertical
  valley-shaped   adj. induplicate; V-shaped in cross section, trough-shaped (as opposed to reduplicate or "roof-shaped")
  vein   n. the conducting tissue of leaves
  viable   adj. alive and able to germinate
  wild   n. or adj. n. natual habitat; adj. unaided by humans (~ collected, collected in its natual habitat vs. from cultivated plants)
  If you find a term that you think should be included, please e-mail us.
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