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Glossary of Terms


   Glossary of cactus and succulent related terms.
 

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aerial roots
- Roots that grow from the plant stem above the soil.  Aerial roots anchor and stabilize plants as well as, in the case of epiphytes, absorb moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere.
  
annual
- A plant that grows from seed, produces flowers and seeds, and then dies in one growing season.
  
annulus
- The raised ring around the center of a succulent flower.
  
anther
- The part of a stamen that produces pollen, usually carried on a filament.
  
areole
- A spine bearing structure present on members of the Cactaceae family.  The stem has become the flat oval or round areole, while the leaves have become spines.
 

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bark
- The layered, outermost structure of the stems and roots of woody plants such as trees and shrubs.  Bark serves as protection for the stems of these plants.
  
bleeding
- When sap or latex flows freely from a damaged stem.
  
bloom
- 1. A flower.  2. A white or bluish white waxy coating on stems, succulent leaves, or fleshy fruit.
  
bonsai
- The art of miniaturization of trees by growing them in containers, as well as other various techniques. Although technically not bonsai, many species of succulents lend themselves nicely to bonsai presentation.
  
bract
- A modified leaf at the base of a flower or flower cluster, which often protects the flower.  Bracts can resemble normal leaves, appear small and scale like, or be large, brightly colored, and look like flower petals.
  
bulb
- A subterranean vertical shoot that has modified, thickened leaf bases, used for storing carbohydrates by a dormant plant.  A modified stem forms the base, where all leaf and root growth originates.
 

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cactus
- (plural cacti) Any member of the succulent plant family Cactaceae.  Native only to the Americas, and ranging in form and drastically in size, from less than 1" in diameter at maturity, to over 50' in height, cactus show a wide range of anatomical and physiological characteristics.  These characteristics arise from the need to conserve and defend water in the arid climates where cactus are native to.  Cactus stems have adapted to contain the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis, while the leaves have modified into the sharp, defensive spines.
  
capsule
- A seed pod that dries and splits open when ripe.
  
callus
- The protective tissue formed over a wound, such as the base of cuttings.
  
caudex
- The swollen globular water-storing tissue usually in both the root and stem of a succulent or woody plant.
  
caudiciform
- A plant posessing a caudex.
  
cephalium
- Seen only in the genera Discocactus and Melocactus, the cephalium is a densely spined crown that produces flowers and fruit.
  
chlorophyll
- The green pigment present in the leaves or stems of plants, which is used in the process of photosynthesis.
  
columnar
- A growth form, ranging in size, but consisting of upright, cylindrical stems.
  
corking
- The gradual maturation of the stem at the base, creating a bark like appearance.
  
crested
- Posessing a mutation causing the stem to grow sideways, instead of lengthwise.
  
cultivar
- The "cultivated variety" is a variant of a species only bred in cultivation.
  
cultivate
- To prepare, improve, and promote the growth of a plant.
  
cultivation
- The act of cultivating.
  
cutting
- A stem, root, leaf, or leaf section removed from the parent plant for the purposes of propagation.
  
cylindrical
- Having the tubular stem shape of a cylinder.
 

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damping off
- A sudden wilting and collapse of seedlings due to a soil level fungal attack.
  
deciduous
- Shedding or losing foliage or stems as part of a process of dormancy, usually at the end of the growing season.
  
dieback
- Progressive death of a stem from the tip due to damage or disease.
  
division
- The process or the result of the process of propagation where a single clump is divided into several sections, each with its own roots and growing point.
  
dormancy
- A temporary halt in active growth and slowing of other functions, usually resulting in foliage drop.  Dormancy occurs in winter, drought, or extreme temperatures.
  
drainage
- The ability and ease of water to evacuate the soil.  Proper drainage also brings air (also important for root growth) into the small cavities in the soil.
  
drought
- An extended period of abnormally dry weather or lack of water.
 

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endemic
- A plant that is native to or restricted to a specific country or region or geographic area.  Not introduced or naturalized.
  
epiphyte
- A plant that grows on the surface of another plant in a non parasitic relationship.  Epiphytes obtain moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere and not soil.
  
erect
- Upright or vertical.
  
ericaceous
- A term applied to potting soil with a pH of 6.5 or less.
  
etiolation
- Pale, sickly, excessive growth caused by insufficient light, incorrect feeding, or overcrowding.
  
evergreen
- Having foliage that persists and remains green throughout the year.
 

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family
- A grouping of related genera.
  
fertilization
- The moment when biological reproduction occurs during pollination
  
fibrous root
- A fine densely branching root system for absorbing water and nutrients from the soil.
  
filament
- The threadlike stalk supporting an anther.  Together, they form the stamen.
  
flat grafting
- see grafting.
  
flower
- Also known as a bloom, a flower is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants (angiosperms). The function of a flower is to mediate the union of male sperm (pollen) with female (ovum) in order to produce seeds. The process begins with pollination, is followed by fertilization, leading to the formation and dispersal of the seeds.
  
flower head
- A mass of small flowers or florets, with the appearance of one large flower.
  
foliage
- Leaves considered as a group.
  
forcing
- The technique of bringing a plant into growth or flower ahead of its natural season, usually by providing extra warmth or controlling daylength.
  
form
- Cultivated or naturally occurring variant of a species, with only a slight variation from the originating species.
  
frost
- A deposit of minute ice crystals formed when water vapor condenses at a temperature below freezing, often causing damage to plants.
  
fruit
- The sometimes edible ripened ovary or ovaries containing the seeds of a seed-bearing plant, occurring in a wide variety of forms.
 

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genus
- (plural genera) A category of plant classification ranked between family and species, denoting similarities in flowering characteristics.
  
glabrous
- Having a smooth hairless surface.
  
glaucous
- Possessing a smooth white, to grey, to blue-green bloom.
  
globular
- Having the spherical shape of a globe.
  
glochids
- Usually very fine, easily detached, barbed bristly spines or hairs.  Glochids only appear in the genus Opuntia.
  
glossy
- Having a smooth, shiny surface.
  
grafting
- A method of propagation in which a union is made between parts of two closely related plants.  A scion is grafted onto a rootstock so they grow into a single plant.  Methods include flat grafting, side grafting, and split or cleft grafting.
  
growing point
- The tip of a shoot where new growth emerges.
  
growing season
- The period of the year when climatic conditions are favorable for plant growth, common to a place or an area.
 

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hardiness
- The ability to withstand most climatic conditions all year without protection, often described with a minimum temperature.
  
herbaceous
- A non-woody plant in which the top-growth dies down to the ground at the end of the growing season.
  
hybrid
- A plant produced by crossing two different species within a genus, or two closely related genera (inter-generic hybrid).
  
hybridization
- The production, either in nature, or in cultivation, of a hybrid by cross pollination.
 

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inflorescence
- A group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem, composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.
  
inter-generic hybrid
- see hybrid.
 

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latex
- The milky white sap that bleeds from damaged stems of some succulents like Euphorbias.
  
leaf
- (plural leaves) In most plants a leaf is a green, flattened, lateral structure attached to a stem and usually contains chlorophyll and functions as an organ of photosynthesis and transpiration.  However, in cacti, the leaf is modified into a spine, and the stems carry out photosynthesis.
  
leaf bract
- see bract.
  
leaf cutting
- A cutting composed of a single leaf or portion of a leaf.
  
loam
- A soil that has balanced quantities of sand, silt, and clay, and is usually moisture and nutrient retentive as well as free draining.
  
lobe
- A rounded or protruding segment, usually of a leaf.
 

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margin
- The outermost edge of a leaf or flower petal.
  
monotypic
- The sole member of its group, such as a single species that constitutes an entire genus.
  
monstrose
- Instead of a single growing point at the end of the stem, monstrose forms develop many growing points, growing illogical twisted stems.
  
mottled
- Spotted or blotched with different shades or colors.
 

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native
- Of, from, or within a region or territory.
  
naturalized
- Having become permanently established after being introduced.
 

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offset
- 1. A young plant produced by the parent, usually at its base. Sometimes called offshoots.  2. To produce offsets.
  
ovary
- (plural ovaries) The base of the female portion of a flower that develops into a fruit after fertilization occurs.
  
ovule
- The female egg, becoming the seed after fertilization.
 

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pad
- The fleshy, oval, sometimes edible stems of various cacti of the genera Nopalea, Consolea, or Opuntia.
  
pad cutting
- A cutting using a single cactus pad.
  
perennial
- A plant with a lifespan of at least three seasons.
  
permanent wilting point
- The point where a plant wilts to an unrecoverable point and dies.
  
petal
- One of the often brightly colored insect attracting parts of a flower, immediately surrounding the reproductive organs
  
pH
- The measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a growing medium.  A pH below 7 is considered acid, and a pH above 7 is considered alkaline.  The ideal pH seems to be about 6.5.
  
photosynthesis
- The process by which a plant makes compounds needed for its growth.  Along with carbon dioxide, sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in the plant cells.
  
pinching out
- The removal of the growing point of a plant or its' stems to induce the production of side shoots or flower buds.
  
plantlet
- A new young plant, which usually arises from the of a wounded leaf or stem, or is naturally borne on the leaf margins
  
pollen
- The fine powdery material consisting of small male reproductive bodies, that is produced by the anthers of seed plants.
  
pollination
- The transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of the same or a different flower.  This process is carried out by wind, gravity, birds, bats, insects, or by hand in cultivation.
   
propagation
- The process of reproducing plants under cultivation.  Propagation methods include cuttings, grafting, division, layering, tissue culture, and seed.
  
prostrate
- Growing flat along the ground.
  
prune
- To cut off or remove living or dead parts or branches of a plant to improve shape or growth.
  
pseudocephalium
- A growth of long hairlike spines on one side of the upper stem of a columnar species, similar to a cephalium.
 

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rib
- A ridge on a cactus stem, usually vertical, formed of the skin.
  
root
- The part of a plant, usually below ground, that holds the plant in position, draws water and nutrients from the soil, and stores food.
  
root ball
- The root mass including the soil of a plant, visible when the plant is lifted from its bed or removed from its pot.
  
rootstock
- 1. The root system of a plant.  2. A vigorous plant used as the root system for grafting, also known as stock.
  
rosette
- A group of leaves radiating from nearly the same point, often borne at ground level, at the base of a very short stem, or at the tip of longer stems.
 

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scion
- A shoot or bud of one species which is united to the rootstock of another plant through the process of grafting.
  
seed
- A ripened plant ovule containing an embryo.
  
seedling
- A young plant, having recently developed from a seed after germination.
  
shrub
- A woody plant, less than 15' tall, with an undefined trunk, or with branches extending to its base.
  
side grafting
- see grafting.
  
species
- The unit of classification below a genus, denoting a very close relationship.
  
spine
- A modified leaf, or sometimes flower stalk, which can be needle like, barbed, curved, hairlike, or bristly.
  
spreading
- Extending horizontally.
  
stamen
- The male reproductive organ in a flower, consisting of the anther and its supporting filament.
  
standard
- A small tree like form obtained by grafting a trailing or arching species onto a tall or columnar species.
  
stem
- Either the main ascending axis of a plant, such as a trunk, or a slender stalk supporting or connecting another plant part, such as a leaf or flower.
  
stem cutting
- A cutting taken from a portion of stem.
  
stigma
- The central part of the female portion of the flower that must receive pollen for fertilization to occur.
  
stock
- see rootstock.
  
style
- The stalk that supports the stigma so that it is well placed to receive pollen.
  
succulent
- Any plant, including cacti, with thick fleshy leaves and or stems that are adapted to store water.
 

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taproot
- The thicker, downward growing, main root of a plant.
  
temporary wilting point
- The point where the plant wilts but can recover.
  
terminal
- At the tip of a stem or branch, usually referring to a bud, rosette, or flower.
  
top dressing
- An inert material, usually decorative, that is applied to the soil surface around the plant to aid drainage, decrease erosion, or prevent moisture loss.
  
trailing
- A growth form where long stems hang down or sweep along the ground, often rooting along the way.
  
tree
- A woody plant, usually taller than 15', with a single, unbranched trunk.
  
tuber
- A swollen, usually subterranean storage organ, derived from a stem or root, that stores water and food for dormancy.
  
tubericle
- A small wart like swelling on cactus stems, formed by the horizontal division of a rib.
 

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variegation
- Streaks or blotches of non chlorophyll containing cells within the leaves and stems of a plant, that usually appear creamy white or yellow to pinkish red.  Since these plants have less green, food producing area compared to their non-variegated counterparts, they tend to be less vigorous growers.
  
variable
- Tending to deviate from a normal or recognized form.
  
variety
- A distinct variant of a species, occuring in the wild.
  
vine
- A plant that trails, or gains support by climbing onto nearby structures, rather than from its' own stems.
 

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whorl
- A ring of three or more leaves or stems originating from the same point, usually on a stem.
  
wilt
- To become limp, usually due to lack of water.
  
window
- A layer of transparent calcium oxalate containing cells at the tip of a succulent leaf.  The window diffuses very strong sunlight in order to protect the chlorophyll containing body of the plant.
 

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zygomorphic
- Bilaterally symmetrical.  A term used in describing a flower that has one or more unequal parts.
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Glossary
Glossary page last updated: March 13, 2010.