Common Plant And Tree Terms For Beginners

plant and tree terms

Photo via Flickr.

Knowing certain plant and tree terminology will help beginners when they are learning about plants and trees.  Here are a number of common terms or words that you may encounter.

It is impossible to learn something knew when you don’t understand any of the words that are being used.  When you learn a new language you have to start with the most common and basic words.  The same holds true when you are learning about plants and trees.  These words will help you understand what guide books mean when they describe plants and trees.

It Is Important To Understand These Common Plant and Tree Terms

These will help you know how to describe what you are looking at when you are learning to identify plants and trees (even in winter).  These plant and tree terms will help when you are looking at how to identify wildflowers.  If you keep a nature journal, you can use these terms to describe what you are looking at in nature.

Common Plant And Tree Terms For Beginners

Broadleaf – a tree or plant with wide, flat leaves.

plant and tree term

A catkin. Photo via Flickr.

Catkin – this is a thin, cluster of male or female flowers in the shape of a spike.  It can point up and be firm or hang down limply depending on what tree it is on.

Chlorophyll – this is a green pigment in all leaves that gives leaves a green color.  It also absorbs sunlight for the plant to use to create energy for photosynthesis.

Conifer – the term used to describe trees or plants that bear cones and have needles or scale like leaves.  Examples include pine trees, spruce, and fir trees.

Crown – this is what all of the parts of a tree or plant that are above ground are called.

Deciduous – a tree or plant that loses its leaves every year or once a year during a certain season.

Evergreen – a plant or tree that keeps it green leaves throughout the entire year.  All conifers are evergreen, but not all evergreens are conifers.  There are some evergreen broadleaf trees in the tropics.

Gall – this is an unusual, not normal growth of plant tissue.  It is usually located along a twig or branch and looks like a bit of the branch is swollen into a ball on the branch or twig.  It can be caused by many different things such as insects, fungus, or bacteria.

Photosynthesis – this is the process that plants and trees use sunlight to create energy.

Pinnate – this is a term used to describe the leaf arrangement on a tree or plant.  It means that one ‘leaf’ is made up of many smaller leaves that come together.  Usually, the leaf has many pairs of leaflets that come off a stem opposite each other.

Pistil – this is the female reproductive part of a flower.  It is made up of the stigma, style, and ovary.

plant and tree terms

A samara from a maple tree.

Samara – this is a winged fruit, such as from a maple or ash tree, where the seed is surrounded by papery tissue.  These look like tiny helicopters when they float down to the ground.

Sapling – this is the name of a young tree.

Stamen – this is the male reproductive part of a flower that hold up and releases the pollen.


plant and tree terms

The leaves on this are whorled. Photo via Flickr.

Whorled – another term used to describe the leaf arrangement on a tree or plant.  This means that one ‘leaf’ looks like it is in a circle pattern coming out from a central point.  The leaves could come out from a twig or stem.