Tag: botanical alphabet (page 1 of 2)

– silicle or silique –

silicle (sil-ickle) and silique (sil-eek): two-chambered (loculed) fruits on species belonging to the mustard (Brassicaceae) family; when opened, a central septum (or wall) between locules is revealed, to which the seeds are attached.

As far as I know, the only plant family with silicles or siliques is the mustard family. I have always found it a little amusing that there are two names for essentially the same thing, the major difference being the shape. A silicle is a short, wide, flattened or rounded fruit; a silique, on the other hand, is long and narrow.

closeup photo of blue mustard siliques
These are the siliques of blue mustard (Chorispora tenella).

For help remembering which is which, just remember that a silique is “long and sleek”, and a silicle is everything else (heart shaped, spherical, or a flattened circle).

The photo at the top of the post is of the silicles of field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense).

– marvelously monoecious –

monoecious: having male and female flowers/flower parts on the same plant

This might be a good time to talk about flowers. Some flowers have both male (stamen) and female (pistil) parts in the same flower. These are considered “perfect” flowers. An “imperfect” flower is either only male (staminate) or only female (pistillate). A monoecious plant can have either perfect or imperfect flowers, but if they are imperfect both the staminate and pistillate flowers will be present.

The opposite of monoecious is dioecious, where the plant has either staminate or pistillate flowers, but not both. If you find yourself getting the two mixed up, it can be helpful to know that both terms are derived from the Greek “oikos” which means “house”; when combined with “mono” (one) or “di” (two), you get:

 monoecious = one house

and

dioecious = two houses

In other words, in a monoecious plant the male and female flowers live together in one house (or plant) while in a dioecious plant you will only find one or the other.  

The catkins in the photo are from an alder (my guess is Alnus tenuifolia) I saw on a hike. The male catkins are the pendulous ones while the female ones are more cone-like. Earlier in the spring they would have appeared fuzzy (the males) or small and green (the females), but as they pollinate/get pollinated they turn brown and harder.

– extensive etiolation –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

etiolation: the result of plants being grown in insufficient light; characterized by pale green/yellow color, long week stems.

Sometimes even a bright, sunny, south facing window isn’t enough for your seedlings. In whatever stage they are in, your plants will tell you whether or not they’re getting enough light. And for many plants, the first sign is etiolation: those long, leggy stems.

Incidentally, this is also a good time to talk about phototropism: the ability of the plant to grow towards the light, as it were. If you notice your plants are leaning towards the source of light, just rotate their pot and they’ll straighten back up. Until they start leaning again.

– great galls –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

gall: abnormal growth or mass of plant tissue; develops in response to wounds from insects, mites, bacterium, fungus, etc.

Goodness, gracious, great galls of fire. Or of pupating insects. Or bacterium. Whatever.

I think galls are so fascinating. They can be on stems, leaves, twigs, trunks, even on roots. Insect galls form as a defense response to an insect laying eggs inside the leaf or stem tissue. Generally, these galls themselves are harmless to the plants unless they occur in very large numbers on young plants. Galls caused by bacteria, fungus, or nematodes, however, are symptomatic of diseases that can severely reduce plant growth or even cause death.

I think that one of the more interesting galls I’ve come across is the pinecone willow gall (or willow pinecone gall) in the picture above. Like you might guess from the name, it’s a gall that occurs on willows and looks like a pinecone. These galls are caused by a midge named Rhabdophaga strobiloides. The female midge lays an egg in a terminal (tip) bud and the plant reacts to the chemicals secreted by the midge, and from the egg itself, by elongating, broadening and hardening the leaf bud tissue into the pinecone-like gall.

Have you seen any interesting galls lately?

– definitively dentate –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

dentate: having outward (opposed to upward, as in serrate) pointing teeth along the margin (or edge) of a leaf

Botanists use a lot of jargon; specific words to describe everything about a plant. I can think of at least a handful of terms, and I’m sure there are more, that are used to describe the edges of leaves alone. Knowing these descriptors comes in handy, though, like when you’re trying to key out a plant. But when you start seeing these descriptors in the scientific names of plants?  Then you can feel like a total plant rock star by knowing something about the plant without ever having seen it! For instance, you’ll find derivatives of the word dentate in Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple), Euphorbia dentate (toothed spurge), and Artemesia tridentata (big sagebrush). And, as you might have guessed, they are all toothed!

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