Learning about carnivorous plants can be fun. It can also be daunting. When describing carnivorous plants, physical structures, mechanisms, relationships with other organisms, etc, we can end up down a rabbit hole of botanical terminology. It’s a specialized language for describing specialized features, and for the uninitiated, it can sound like a foreign language. Throughout Carnivorous Plant Resource, I try to describe things in a simple manner, but I do occasionally leverage terminology pulled from the world of botany simply because it is succinct and the most accurate when you understand what all the big scary words actually mean.
To help clear up any confusion, here’s a list of botanical terms with definitions (click on an item to expand it) and clarifying imagery that I hope guides you through your journey into the fascinating world of carnivorous plants. If I’ve missed a term, please leave a comment and I’ll get it added! Also, consider bookmarking this page for quick reference in the future. You can click on any image to enlarge it.
an underground bud surrounded by scales or leaf bases which enclose it. The so-called Dionaea (Venus flytrap) bulb is not a true bulb, but rather the growing point (apical bud) surrounded by the remaining basal portions of the leaves which have been cut off (see tuber, rhizome).
all plants obtained by vegetative propagation from one seedling are said to be of the same clone. In other terms – a group of plants reproduced asexually from one plant and, therefore, genetically identical.
a mass of cells and fluid secreted out of vessels or glands. In the carnivorous plant world, this often refers to the white globules found on the underside of the hoods of Nepenthes lowii and N. ephippiata.
a kingdom of mostly microscopic organisms that are closely related to animals. They include spore producing organisms such as mushrooms, yeast and molds and play a vital roll in nutrient recycling within an ecosystem through their decomposition of organic matter.
(plural: greges or grexes), derived from the Latin noun grex, gregis meaning ‘flock’, has been expanded in botanical nomenclature to describe hybrids based solely on their parentage. We use a common grex name like Sarracenia x moorei, when it shares the same parents as the other plants within that grex. In this example all offspring resulting from hybridizing S. flava and S. leucophylla are within the S. x moorei grex.
in Nepenthes, a plate inserted on the rim of the mouth in most species. It is down-curved on both sides, and thus semi-cylindrical in section, and ribbed, the ribs being usually sharply toothed on the inner margin.
observable characteristics, such as height, biomass, leaf shape and so on. We use the term phenotype in a more specific context to describe the collective expression of the genotype in conjunction with the environment on a plant’s observable characteristics.
when seeds or embryos begin to develop before they detach from their parent or fruit, this is considered a vivipary. In Venus flytraps, entirely new plantlets will sometimes sprout directly on the flower stalks – a false vivipary.