Glossary

Key terms and definitions.
Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.

A

achene

Any small, dry fruit with one seed whose outer covering (pericarp) does not burst when ripe. Example: sunflower seed.

algae

A wide variety of tiny, often microscopic, plants (or plant-like organisms) that live both in water and on land (alga – singular).

alternate (leaf arrangement)

Leaves occurring one at a node; one after another, not opposing.

anatomy

The internal structure of an organism and/or its parts.

angiospermae

A major division of the plant kingdom, commonly known as flowering plants; their reproductive organs develop seeds in the flowers. Example: duck potato. angiosperms - plural

anther

The top of the stamen, which produces the pollen.

aquarium

A tank or pool filled with water for the purpose of keeping live fish and other underwater animals and/or plants.

aquatic

Living or growing in, on, or near the water.

aquatic macrophytes

Aquatic plants that are large enough to be apparent to the naked eye. They can be grouped into four basic categories. Some are rooted in the bottom sediments but protrude above the water's surface (emersed) while others float on the water's surface (floating and floating-leaved). Still others grow completely below the water's surface (submersed).

aquatic plants

Plants that grow in water or wet areas; plants that must complete part or all of their life cycle in or near the water. The general term "aquatic plants" usually refers to aquatic macrophytes, but it may be used to refer to both macrophytes and algae.

aquatic vascular plants

Aquatic plants containing the conductive vascular tissue, phloem and xylem.

ascending (plant habit)

Growing upward, inclined.

atmosphere

The whole mass of air surrounding the earth.

axil

The angle found between any two organs or structures, as between a stem and leaf.

axillary

In an axil, growing in an axil, as buds.

B

bacteria

Microscopic single-celled organisms; the simplest and oldest form of life, found in almost every environment on the Earth’s surface. A gram of soil contains about 2.5 billion bacteria. (singular form: bacterium)

bark

The outermost covering of trees and some plants. This is composed of the cuticle or epidermis, the outer bark or cortex, and the inner bark or fiber.

berry

Any fleshy simple fruit with one or more seeds and a skin, as a tomato, cranberry, banana, grape, etc.; without a stony layer surrounding the seeds.

biological control

Is the use of insects, fish, diseases, and other biological agents to weaken or cause stress to an unwanted invasive plant species. Biological control agents usually are host specific; they feed on that one species of plant only.

biological productivity

The ability of a waterbody (or habitat) to support plants, fish and wildlife.

bipinnately compound (leaf arrangement

Consists of two pinnately compund leaves attached opposite to the same leaf stalk. Also, each pinnately compound leaf consists of two rows of leaflets; arranged one on either side of the leaf stalk.

bisexual

An individual flower with both male and female parts.

blade

The leaf of a plant, especially grass; the flat or expanded portion of a leaf; lamina.

bract

A modified leaf, growing at the base or on the stalk of a flower; usually differs from other leaves in shape or color. If bright colored, it helps attract pollinators.

branchlet

A small usually terminal branch.

bud

An undeveloped leaf or flower (or both) of a plant.

bulb

A specialized underground bud that sends down roots and consists of a very short stem covered with leafy scales or layers which store water and nutrients. Not a corm, rhizome or tuber.

C

calyx (flower part)

All sepals of a flower combined together. (calices – plural).

cambium

In woody plants, the layer of tissue between the bark and wood that produces new cells.

carbon dioxide (CO2)

A chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms bonded to a single carbon atom; a heavy colorless gas. It is formed as the result of human and animal respiration and also in the decay or burning of animal or vegetable matter.

career

A profession for which one trains.

cellulose

The chief substance found in the cell walls or woody part of plants; which contributes to their stiffness.

channeled

Having a deep longitudinal groove.

chemical control

The use of specially formulated herbicides (registered with the U.S. EPA) to kill or control plants.

chemical process

A method or means of somehow changing one or more chemicals or chemical compounds.

clasping (leaf attachment)

Leaf partially encircles the stem. Example: West Indian marsh grass.

climate

The average condition of the weather at a place, usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation.

climbing (plant habit)

Growing upward in a winding fashion.

competition (among plants)

An interaction between two species which can result in a disadvantage to one or both of the species. For example, when an exotic plant is introduced to a habitat outside its normal range, it often competes with native plant species for nutrients, space, sunlight, water, etc. If the exotic plant doesn't have to worry about other "controlling" factors such as hungry insects, bacteria, viruses, it could take over and crowd the native plant species out of the area. For more information, visit exotic plants. For more information, visit native plants.

compound

Composed of two or more similar and united parts (as a leaf with 2 or more leaflets).

cordate (leaf base)

With a sinus and rounded lobes at the base; the overall outline is usually ovate or heart-shaped.

corm

An enlarged rounded solid underground stem, filled with nutrients.

corolla

The inner, usually colored or otherwise differentiated, whorl or whorls of the perianth; the petals of a flower as a whole. 

cotyledon

The first leaf or leaves of a seed plant, found in the embryo of the seed; may form the first photosynthetic leaves or may remain below ground. Also called seed leaf or leaves.

creek

A natural stream of water, normally smaller than (and often tributary to) a river.

creeping (plant habit)

Growing by spreading out and staying close to the ground. 

crenate (leaf margin)

Having a notched, indented, or scalloped edge. 

culm

The stalk or stem for grasses and sedges and related plants, usually jointed and hollow. 

D

deciduous

That which falls down; losing foliage with change of seasons.

decomposition

The breakdown of dead organic material by microorganisms into simpler compounds.

diffuse

To spread freely (extend, scatter).

dioecious

Male and female flowers on separate plants.

dissolved oxygen

A form of oxygen gas (O2) that is constantly entering water from two main sources: the atmosphere and photosynthesis (plants); an indicator of water quality. 

drainage ditch

A ditch constructed near farm fields, parking lots, roads, or real estate developments to allow rain or storm water to drain quickly.

drupe

A fleshy or pulpy fruit with the inner portion of the pericap hard or stony and enclosing the seed.

E

ecology

Branch of science concerned with the interrelationships of organisms and their environments especially as manifested by natural cycles and rhythms, community development and structure, geographic distributions and population alteration.

ecosystem

A community of living organisms (plants, animals, microorganisms, etc.) all of which interact among themselves and the environment where they live, on land, in the soil or in the water, etc. An integrated unit of a biological community, its physical environment and interactions. An ecosystem can be as small as a mud puddle or as large as a continent or even planet earth itself.

elliptic (leaf shape)

Having the form of an oval or ellipsis; widest in the middle, similar to the outline of a football. 

emergent plants

Same as emersed.

emersed plants

Are rooted in shallow water with much of the vegetative growth above the water. Example: pickerel weed.

entire (leaf margin)

Having a margin devoid of any indentations, teeth, or lobes.

environment

The circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded. All components of the earth, including air, land, and water; all layers of the atmosphere.

erect (plant habit)

Vertical; upright standing.

eutrophic (waterbody)

Contains high concentrations of nutrients; the waterbody will either have lots of aquatic plants and clear water or it will have few aquatic plants and lots of algae (less clear water). Has the potential to support lots of fish and wildlife. 

eutrophication

Contains high concentrations of nutrients; the eaterbody will either have lots of aquatic plants and clear water or it will have few aquatic plants and lots of algae (less clear water). Has the potential to support lots of fish and wildlife.

exotic

Purposefully or accidentally introduced species to a native habitat (Example: from a natural range outside of Florida). Not necessarily invasive. 

F

filament

A stalk; the part of a flower that holds the anther. 

fish kill

A fish kill is an event in which dead fish are observed. Fish kills are usually caused by depletion of oxygen in shallow water.

floating-leaved plant

A plant that may or may not be anchored to the sediment, but has leaves that float on the surface of the water. Example: waterlilies, spatterdock, and the American lotus. 

food web

Feeding relationships between plants and animals in an area or ecosystem.

free-floating plants

Are not anchored in the sediment; they get their nutrients directly from the water. Example: duckweeds, bladderwort, coontail, water hyacinth.

G

glabrous

Without hairs.

gland

A depression that secretes a substance (from a plant surface).

glaucous

Bluish green; covered with a pale green bloom.

globose

Rounded; almost spherical; globular.

grass-like

Mostly herbaceous flowering plants with jointed stems, slender sheathing leaves; plants that look similar to grasses but contain members of the sedge or rush family.

H

habit

(L. habitus, condition, appearance, dress) the characteristic appearance of a plant and its stems/leaves (including size, shape, color, pattern of growth etc.). Example:  tall, erect, spreading, etc.

habitat

The locality or external environment in which a plant lives.

herb

Any seed plant whose stem withers away to the ground after each season's growth; a seed plant with a green, non-woody stem. Example: lyre-leaf sage.

herbaceous plants

Soft, grassy, non- woody plants that according to season (autumn) lose their above-ground growth but leave intact roots and produce new growth in the new season (spring).

herbicide

A chemical that kills plants or inhibits their growth; intended for weed control.

herbivore

An animal that eats only plant material. This group includes many insects (aphids, wasps, etc.) and mammals (rabbits, mice, deer, squirrels, elephants, etc.).

hybrid

Any cross-bred plant.

hydrosoil

Submerged soils developed in anaerobic conditions; often dark in color.

hypereutrophic waterbody

Contains very high concentration of nutrients; supports large amounts of algae and/or plants, fish and wildlife; water is murky.

I

immersed

Completely covered with liquid; submerged. To be completely involved or occupied.

indigenous

Native; originating or occurring naturally in a specific area. Example: cattails are indigenous to Florida.

inflorescence

A cluster or arrangement of flowers on an axis; a flowering branch. Example: sawgrass. Photograph examples one and two.

integrated control

A combination of all available plant control methods into a strategy compatible with the use and current conditions of a waterbody.

internode

The portion of a stem between nodes. 

interspecific competition

Competition among different species for nutrients, space, light, etc.

intraspecific competition

When an individual plant competes with one or more members of the same species for nutrients, space, light, etc.

introduced

Moved by humans.

invasive exotic plant

An exotic plant species that is expanding on its own in native plant communities, endangering the existence of native species. Example: water hyacinth.

invasive plant

A non-native plant species that is able to spread on its own, causing environmental or economic harm.

invasive species

A non-native species (to an ecosystem) that is causing or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

L

lacerate ­(leaf margin)

With an irregularly torn margin.

lake

A large inland body of fresh water, (formed naturally by sink holes, rivers, glaciers, etc.); larger than a pool or pond.

lanceolate (leaf shape)

Shaped like a lance; broadest toward the base and narrowedat the tip; several times longer than wide.

leaf

Part of a plant; an outgrowth from the stem, usually flat in structure and green in color. The part of the plant where most of the transpiration and photosynthesis processes occur.

leaf arrangement

Refers to the various ways plants will have their leaves positioned on the stalk; they are commonly in pairs, opposite one another on the stem, or they are produced singly in an alternate arrangement.

leaf attachment

The way leaves are attached to the stem of plant.

leaf axil

The angle found between the leaf and the stem.

leaf base

The lowest part of a leaf (near the petiole or stem); the bottom of the leaf where it attaches to the plant.

leaf margin

The edge or border of a leaf; whether it is smooth, toothed, wavy, etc; it is a helpful feature in plant identification.

leaf shape

Any of the various shapes that the blades (leaves) of plants can assume.

leaf tip

The point on a leaf furthest from the stem.

leaflet

Individual blades found in a compound leaf.

legume

Bearing seeds along the ventral surface; a leguminous plant.

ligule

Thin, membranous extension of the leaf sheath on the upper surface of the leaf; may be hairy or bristly, hard or soft. Example: vasey grass.

limnology

The scientific study of physical, chemical, meteorological, and biological conditions of inland waterbodies.

linear (leaf shape)

Long and slender with parallel or nearly parallel sides. 

M

macrophyte

See aquatic macrophyte.

maintenance control

Controlling exotic weeds on a continuous basis, using a variety of techniques (biological, chemical, mechanical), so troublesome plants can be kept at the lowest feasible levels.

management plan

A plan guiding the overall management of an area, often administered by a federal or state agency or citizens. It usually includes objectives, goals, standards and guidelines, management actions, and monitoring plans.

margin

Boundary line; the edge (ex. of a leaf).

marginal

On the boundary line; on the edge (of a leaf).

marsh

A tract of wet land principally inhabited by emergent herbaceous vegetation. Usually a transition between land and water.

mechanical control

The use of machines to shear, crush, shred, press, pull and remove aquatic weeds from waterbodies.

mesotrophic (waterbody)

Contains moderate concentrations of nutrients and supports a moderate amount of algae and/or plants, fish and wildlife. 

midrib

Central and most prominent vein of a leaf or leaflet.

N

native plant

A plant species that occurs naturally within a geographic region or area. In Florida, the phrase “native plant” refers to those species that were here prior to European contact (also referred to as an indigenous plant). It has not been introduced by humans, intentionally or unintentionally.

natural areas

Lands that have not been developed for agriculture, business, or housing; they are preserved due to unique scenic, historic, geologic or ecological value.

naturalize

To adapt to a non-native environment; when a species of foreign origin, established itself and reproduces (outside cultivation) as though it is native.

naturalized exotic

An exotic plant that sustains itself outside of cultivation. (Note: this does not mean that it has "become" native).

node

A knob or joint of a stem from which leaves, roots, shoots, or flowers may arise. A node may contain one or more buds.

non-native

From "another area" (i.e. red fox).

non-native plant

A plant species present in a region outside its original, historic range due to intentional or unintentional introduction; not necessarily invasive. Also referred to as alien, exotic, or non-indigenous.

nutrients

Chemicals that algae and aquatic plants (macrophytes) need for growth. Nitrogen and phosphorous are two of the most common nutrients found in Florida soils.

O

oblanceolate (leaf shape)

Shaped like a lance point reversed; having the tapering point next to the leafstalk.

oblong (leaf shape)

Elliptical, slightly rectangular and from two to four times longer than it is broad.

obovate (leaf shape)

Inversely ovate; roughly the shape of an egg, with the broad end at the top.

oligotriphic (waterbody)

Water that contains very low concentrations of nutrients. Biologically less productive; supporting small amounts of algae, few plants and fish. Water is clear.

opposite (leaf arrangement)

Leaves or bracts on opposite sides of the stem/twig; occurring two at a node, directly across from one another.

orbicular (leaf shape)

Almost circular or shield-shaped.

ovate (leaf shape)

Egg-shaped and with the broader end towards the base.

ovoid

Egg-shaped.

ovule

Part of a seed plant that develops into a seed after fertilization; it contains the megasporangium (nucellus), megaspore (embryo sac), a food store, and a coat.

oxygen

A colorless gas that makes up 21% of the atmosphere. It is essential for animal (including human) respiration.

P

palmately compound (leaf arrangement)

Leaflets that originate from a common center.

panicle

A branched racemose inflorescence often applied more widely to any branched inflorescence (a tuft of plants).

parts per million (ppm)

A way of expressing very dilute (small) concentrations of substances; PPM means “out of a million;” usually describes the concentration of something in water or soil.

pathogen

An organism that causes disease in another organism; usually a virus, bacterium or fungus.

peltate (leaf base and attachment)

Round shield-shaped leaves, attached to the stem at the center.

perennial

A plant that grows for 3 or more years and usually flowers each year.

perfect (flower)

With both male and female parts; bisexual.

perianth

The outer whorl of floral leaves of a flower; collectively, the calyx and corolla, or either one; if one is absent.

petal

The colored parts of the corolla (most of the time), usually arranged in a circle; most visible part of the flower.

petiolate (leaf attachment)

Petiole (leaf stalk) is present.

petiole

The slender stalk or stem of a leaf (small foot); also called a leaf stalk.

phloem

The tissue forming part of a plant's vascular system; used by the plant to transport carbohydrates and other organic (food) materials from the leaves to the rest of the plant.

photosynthesis

A chemical process that takes place in virtually all plants including aquatic plants and algae (and many forms of bacteria). Using three simple ingredients (carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight), plants and bacteria are able to make their own food.

physical control

The use of hand-pulling techniques, drawdowns (water removal), flooding, burning, dredging and shading to control invasive plants.

pinna

A leaflet or a primary division of a compound leaf (L. pinna, feather). Pinnae (or pinnas) – plural of pinna.

pistil

The female reproductive organ of a flower; may be comprised of a single carpel (consisting of stigma, style and ovary) or two or more carpels united.

plant

A major group of living beings that typically lack locomotive movement or obvious sensory organs, and are generally capable of making their own food. This group includes at least 300,000 species including aquatic macrophytes, some planktonic algae, ferns, flowers, grasses, herbs, trees, etc.

pollen

A fine powder-like material (grain) that is produced within the anther (in seed plants); these grains carry the male DNA of the plant.

pond

A body of standing water smaller than a lake, often artificially formed.

primary production

Refers to growth produced by organisms at the bottom of the food chain (plants, algae, etc.) which, in turn, fuels the rest of the food chain.

productivity

Amount of production over a given period of time. Expressed as a rate such as g/m2 per day, kg/ha per year, etc. See biological productivity.

propagulum or propagule

A runner or sucker used in the asexual reproduction and dispersal of plants. (propagula or propagules – plural).

R

raceme

An inflorescence with many flowers arranged along an axis.

rachis

The main axis of an inflorescence.

reniform (leaf shape)

Having the shape of a kidney.

respiration

The act or process by which an organism without lungs, such as a fish or plant, exchanges gases with its environment; the act or process of inhaling and exhaling; breathing.

retention pond

A manmade pond where stormwater is directed and held.

rhizome

A subterranean horizontal root-like stem sending out leaves and shoots from its upper surface and roots from its lower surface.

river

A large natural stream of water; larger than a creek.

root

The part of a plant, usually below ground, that holds the plant in position, draws water and nutrients from the soil, stores food, and is typically non-green, without buds or leaves.

rosette (leaf arrangement)

Clustered and crowned around a common point of attachment.

rounded (leaf base)

Arched or circular in shape rather than pointy and/or angled.

runner

A slender creeping stem that puts forth roots from nodes, spaced at intervals along its length. New plants eventually grow from the nodes and can become detached from the parent plant. Example: St. Augustine grass.

S

sagittate (leaf base)

Shaped like an arrow with the basal lobes pointing downward.

secchi disk

A small black and white disk used to measure water clarity.

sedimentation

The act or process of deposition of decomposed organic material on the bottom of a waterbody, often called muck.

seed

The part of a flowering plant that contains the embryo and will develop into a new plant if sown; a fertilized and mature ovule.

sepal

Any of the leaf divisions of the calyx; part of the outer floral leaves, usually green.

serrate (leaf margin)

Having sharp notches along the edge pointing toward the apex. Called double serrate if small serratures intermingle with big, as in the elm. See illustration, images of serrate leaf and double serrate leaf.

sessile (leaf attachment)

Sitting directly on a main stem or branch without the support of a leaf stalk.

sheath

The protective covering; the lower part of a leaf that envelopes stem or culm.

shoot

A young branch/leaf that shoots out from the main stock.

simple (leaf)

A single blade.

spatulate (leaf shape)

Shaped like a spatula or spoon, gradually widening distally and with a rounded tip.

species

A group of successfully interbreeding individuals.

spikelet

A subdivision of a spike; the parts that contain the flowers of the plant; often have scales and/or bristles.

spore

Any of various small reproductive bodies, often consisting of a single cell, produced asexually or by the union of gametes (as in mosses, ferns, etc.).

sprawling (leaf habit)

Spread out in different directions.

spring

A place where the underground aquifer surface meets the ground surface; where groundwater flows out of the ground.

squared (leaf base)

Having the shape of a square; having right angles.

stamen

The male reproductive organ of a flower; situated within the petals and in most cases is composed of the filament and the anther, that produces pollen.

stem

The main axis of a plant, typically above the soil surface; generally supports the leaves.

stem tuber

A swollen structure produced by stolons and runners which remains dormant during adverse conditions and later grows into a new plant when the conditions become favorable for growth.

stigma

The upper tip or part of the pistil of a flower receiving the pollen. It is generally situated at the upper extremity of the style.

stipule

A small leaf-like or membranaceous growth at base of a leaf petiole.

stolon

A slender modified stem growing along the ground, rooting at the nodes and developing a new plant; horizontally growing stem. Example: strawberry.

stoma

One of the minute openings in the epidermis of leaves, stems, and other plant organs through which gases are exchanged between the atmosphere and the intercellular spaces. stomata – plural.

style

Slender upper part of the pistil, supporting the stigma of a flower.

submerge

To sink or plunge beneath the surface of water.

submersed plants

Plants growing with their root, stems, and leaves completely under the surface of the water. Sometimes the leaves and/or flowers may grow above the surface. Example: vallisneria.

swamp

Low ground filled with water; a wooded area having surface water much of the time.

T

tannins

Tea colored organic dissolved compounds that originate from many types of terrestrial and aquatic plants; can affect the color of a waterbody.

taxonomy

The scientific classification of organisms, based on natural relationships.

terrestrial (plant)

A plant that is living or grown on land; not aquatic.

trailing

Plants laying flat on the ground, on the surface, or on other vegetation.

transplant

From same country (i.e. red eared slider).

trophic state

Category used to classify a lake or waterbody based on its biological productivity; usually determined using four water chemistry parameters: chlorophyll, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and water clarity.

tuber

The short, thickened, fleshy, food-storing portion of an underground stem with many surface buds; shaped like a tiny potato.

turion

A young scaly shoot budded off from underground stems; detachable winter bud used for perennation (the process of living through a number of years) in many aquatic plants.

tussock

A drifting mass of peat, mud and plants; often referred to as a "floating island."

twice compound

Leaflets that are again divided into leaflets.

twining

Winding around an object or another plant.

U

undulate (leaf margin)

Having a wavy edge.

V

vascular

Containing a system for carrying or circulating fluids, such as sap and/or water, through the body of a plant.

vascular bundle

Part of the transport system found in vascular plants; used to transport water and/or nutrients within the plant; strand-like, contains the xylem and phloem.

vegetative propagation

Reproduction of plants using a nonsexual process involving stems, leaves and parts of the mother plant; the process does not involve production of seeds or spores.

volunteer

A person who voluntarily undertakes or provides a service; someone who works for free for a community.

W

water clarity

A measure of how far you can see into the water; its visible depth.

water monitoring

Regular observation and assessment of the state of natural waters; collecting, managing and delivering data on the quantity and quality of water found in a waterbody  (creek, lake, river, stream, ocean, etc.)

water temperature

The degree of hotness or coldness of water.  Water temperature is an important factor for aquatic life. It affects metabolic rate of aquatic organisms that live in water and the activity level of bacteria. It also influences dissolved oxygen concentrations in water (e.g., colder water has higher dissolved oxygen levels). Air temperature and radiant energy from the sun have the greatest influence on water temperature.

weed

Any plant that crowds out a cultivated and desired plant.

wet weight

The weight of plants after the outer surface covering of water has been removed. Wet weight is not a reliable measurement since methods to prepare plants prior to weighing vary considerably; same as the fresh weight.

wet woodland

A wooded area having surface water some of the time, for intermittent short periods.

whorl (leaf arrangement)

Parts of a flower, or leaves (three or more at a time) arising from one node; vertical. A circle of flowers.

wind and wave action

The action of wind on the water’s surface. These forces may move, mix and disturb water (i.e., make waves). Under normal weather conditions, this process increases the amount of oxygen diffused into water from the atmosphere. However, wind from storms may decrease oxygen in a shallow waterbody as it can cause waves to stir up bottom sediments (mixing oxygen-poor sediments with surface waters and lowering the overall oxygen content).

woody plants

Plants that have woody stems and grow continuously throughout the year, many years in a row, without losing their above-ground growth with the change of seasons. Example: Hypericum fasciculatum.

X

xylem

Woody tissue that is part of the water-transport system in plants and also acts as supporting tissue.