Glossary of Terms
For the less experienced among us, there may be terms in this field guide that are not at first clear. In an effort to make this guide as accessible as possible to everyone, we have included this glossary of terms. Throughout the site, terms that are defined in this glossary are linked, and clicking on them will open this page in a new window, displaying the definition of whatever term you clicked on.

To go to a skip down to a specific letter of the alphabet, click on that letter on the menu below.

Acorn cap - The softer, detachable upper portion of the acorn that attaches the acorn to the tree.

Annual - A plant which grows, develops, and dies in one growing season; does not survive past one year.

Anther - The male portion of a flower, found on the tip of the filament; numerous anthers surround the female part, or stigma and ovary, of the flower.

Angled buds - Buds that shoot off from the main stem or branch at an angle less than 90 degrees, yet that do not lie flat on the side of the stem.

Alternate leaves - Multiple leaves do not sprout from the same point on a branch; rather each individual leaf grows from its own, separate position on the branch.

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Basal rosette - A plant structure in which all of the leaves of the plant origionate from a central location at the very base of the major stem and unfurl outwards and away from the plant.

Blanch - To boil for a short time in water.

Bristle-tips - Stiff hairs or fibers, occasionally with sharp ends, present at the end or tip of a plant structure.

Bud - An unopened, developing leaf, shoot, or flower located on the sides or end of a stem or branch.

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Calyx lobes - The sepals of a flower; the outer floral leaves which may be separate or fused.

Catkin - An ovular cluster of small fruits or flowers found drooping from the branches of some trees. Male catkins usually larger than female (when existing on single-sex trees).

Compound leaves - Leaves which are comprised of 2 or more leaflets; each leaflet may in turn be made up of 2 or 3 leaflets of its own, making it doubly or triply compounded, respectively. (To determine which is a leaf and which is a leaflet, check the base of the stem, or petiole, that the leaf or leaflet is attached to. Remnants of buds, bud scars, are visible at the bases of leaves, but not leaflets.)

Conifer - Usually an evergreen tree, these trees bear cones and have thin, needle-like or scale-like leaves.

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Deadly - If you don't know what this word means, then you probably shouldn't even be looking at this field guide. Just in case though, it means something that you can DIE from.

Deciduous - A type of plant that loses its leaves in the autumn, keeps them off in the winter while gaining sustinence from energy stored in the roots, and grows new leaves back in order to photosynthesize in the spring.

Dermatitis - Inflammation and irritation of the skin, possibly including a severe itch.

Disk flower - A small, five petaled flower found in the center, or disk, of a larger, composite flower such as the sunflower.

Double-toothed - On every tooth can be found smaller teeth, so there are two "levels" of toothing.

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Evergreen - A plant which keeps its leaves, or needles, throughout the winter and dry periods.

Exotic - A non-native plant species; a plant not usually found growing naturally in a specified region.

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False end bud - Bud at the end of a twig or branch does not ever open into a leaf, shoot, or flower.

Family - An order of organization of organisms, under order, which includes organizations of genus and species.

Fatal - See "Deadly."

Furrowed - Bark that is furrowed has small cracks and valleys along it, usually going vertically, or up and down the tree.

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Genus - An order of organization of organisms, under family, which includes the organization of species.

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Herbaceous - A non-woody, soft-stemmed and leaved plant.

Hull - The outer coating of a seed or fruit; the persistent calyx.

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Inflorescence - A cluster of flowers origionating from the same bud.

Infructescence - A cluster of fruits origionating from the same inflourescense, and therefore, bud.

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Key - The fruit of a tree in the Aceraceae (maple) family.

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Leach - The process of boiling acorns, usually after they are chopped or ground, in several changes of water to remove bitter flavored tannin.

Leaflet - A small, leaflike structure which branches off the mainstem of a compound leaf; does not origionate from its own bud.

Lobe - An extended section of a leaf which bulbs out from the edge of the leaf; the “fingers” of a leaf.

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Midrib - The largest and main vein that runs down the center of a leaf.

Mucilaginous - A gelatinous, high sugar-content substance that exists in various plants, such as legumes and seaweeds; a gum or adhesive like solution.

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Native - A species of organism which lives naturally in a given area; local, non-exotic.


Opposite leaves - Leaves that sprout from the same position on a branch, usually on opposite sides of the branch.

Ovary - The reproductive part of a flower that will eventually develop into a fruit.

Ovate - Oval-shaped.

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Palmate leaves - Palm-shaped leaves that spread outwards from a central point and form a fan-like structure.

Pectin - The basis of fruit jellies; a water-soluble substance that binds neighboring cell walls in plants together.

Petiole - The small stem at the base of a leaf which attaches to a twig or branch.

Pinnate leaves - A feathery, compound leaf with leaflets branching off a main midrib.

Pith - The soft center of twigs and some stems.

Prickle - A modified, epidermal outgrowth; sharp.

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Ray flower - A small flower with a single ray of three, fused petals that is part of a larger, composite flower; outlines a central, compact disk full of tubular disk flowers.

Red Oak group - A group of Oaks characterized by leaves with pointed lobes. Oaks in this group have acorns that take two years to mature, and thus have more tannin than Oaks in the White Oak group.

Rose hip - The fruit of a rose plant, left in the place of the flowers once they have died; small, reddish or orange fruits with 5 calyx lobes on top.

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Scalloped - The rounded, smooth and even mounds or ridges that can be found on the edges of certain leaves.

Sepals - Modified leaves that surround the base of a flower to protect the developing seed or fruit.

Shoots - Young, immature stems.

Shrub - A small, woody plant which grows mo more than 15 feet (4½ meters) in height; made up of more than one strong, main stem.

Simple leaves - Leaves with a single blade and main midrib.

Single-toothed - Leaves with a sharp point, or tooth, at the end of each vein (off the midrib) on the edge of the leaf. As differentiated from double-toothed.

Sinus - A rounded groove cutting into the side of a leaf to give it its characteristic shape; can be deep, shallow or medium in depth.

Species - The most specific level of taxonomic organization; under the level Genus.

Stellate hair - Small, star-shaped hairs that grow on the undersides of some leaves.

Stigma - The sticky part of the female portion of a flower. Pollen will stick on to.

Stipule - Small leaflike structures found at the bottoms of certain leafstalks.

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Tannin - A bitter chemical that builds up and is found in all acorns; water-soluble.

Taxonomy - The classification of an organism based on an accepted, scientific system; each organism is classified with a taxonomy including names in the 7 major classification groups: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species.

Thorn - A sharp-tipped, woody and modified stem that grows from the surface of branches or stems.

Toothed - A leaf with small, pointed ridges or extensions from its edge. See also “Single-toothed” and “Double-toothed.”

Tree - A large woody plant growing at least 12 feet (4 meters) in height with a diameter of 3 inches (7½ centimeters) at a height of 5 feet (1½ meters) from the ground.

True end bud - An end bud from which sprouts and actual leaf, stem, or twig. See “False end bud.”

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Vine - An herbaceous or woody plant with tendrils and the ability to climb and grow over other plants or objects easily.

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White Oak group - A group of Oaks having leaves with rounded lobes. Oaks in this group have acorns that take one year to mature, and thus have less tannin than Oaks in the Red Oak group.

Whorl - A collection of three or more leaf parts or branches which radiate from a single, central point.

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Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.