Common Botanical Terms

The following descriptions have been useful to us as we slowly widened our knowledge of things botanical as we established out indigenous tree nursery. However, and we recommend that you follow up these descriptions by browsing through the references sited on our website. This will help you clarify descriptions where we may have been a little superficial. We also hope those searches will also suck you further into this passion.

Miombo                        A characteristic woodland type of the region with the vegetation dominated by the genera BrachystegiaJulbernardia and Isoberlinia, extending from Tanzania to northern South Africa.

Montane                       Referring to mountainous terrain.

Riparian/Riverine       Along a river or stream.

Suffrutex                      Essentially a stunted underground tree where only the leaves, flowers and fruit are above ground and usually as a low surface cover. Sometimes a growth form of a common tree species.

Deciduous                    Losing leaves at the end of the growing season, usually during the height of the dry season.

Evergreen                    Retaining leaves throughout the year.

Leaf features


Entire leaf margin       A leaf margin that is smooth and uninterrupted.

Serrated leaf margin  A leaf margin that is coarsely or finely toothed.

Opposite leaf               Leaves that are set opposite each other along a stem.


Alternative leaf            Leaves that are arranged alternately along the stem.


Whorled leaf               Leaves that are arranged in whorls along the stem.


Palmate leaf


Bilobed leaf


Compound leaf            Leaf comprising one or more leaflets.

Trifoliate leaf             A compound leaf form with three leaflets.


Pinnate leaf                  A compound leaf with two or more leaflets arranged in rows along a central stem (called a rachis).


Imparipinnate             A compound pinnate leaf with an odd number of leaflets and a single terminal leaflet.

Paripinnate                  A compound pinnate leaf with a pair of terminal leaflets.

Bipinnate leaf              A compound leaf with each a secondary subdivision of each leaflet.


Pubescent                    Covered in hairs.

Scabrid                         Rough, sandpapery.

Inflorescence               A flowering stem with more than one flower unit. The flowers may be arranged in a variety of forms.

Globose                        Spherical, as in flower or fruit form.

Spike                             Referring to a flower form with individual flowers without stalks arranged along a central axis.

Raceme                        Similar to a spike but with flowers on stalks and with the oldest flowers at the base.

Dehiscent                     Referring to pods that split open as they dry, often explosively. The seeds are then broadcast widely.

Indehiscent                  Referring to pods that do not split open as they dry, or only partially, therefore depending on animals and birds to transport the seeds.

Winged pod                 Fruit has winged extensions, usually two or four wings.


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