As a novice gardener, there may be some words you don’t
know, but with plant biology a subject touched upon years ago at school,
technical stuff I read now sometimes needs explaining. Here are a few basics you
might come across as a beginner gardener. Forgive me if you know them all
Plant parts are a
bit of a mystery, so let’s start there. There are 6 main parts to a plant
- roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruits. Each part has a set of jobs
to do to keep the plant healthy. The roots absorb water and minerals
from the soil and anchor the plant in the ground. The stem supports the
plant above ground and carries the water and minerals to the leaves.
Leaves produce food for the plant by photosynthesis. Chlorophyll, the substance
that gives plants their characteristic green colour, absorbs light
energy. Ok so far.
Flowers - have
4 main parts: the petals, sepals, stamens, and carpels (aka pistils). Petals,
I think we all know what they are, the pretty, coloured outer part of the
flower. So, what’s a sepal? That’s the green bit that supports the
flower petals when they are buds, but sometimes in plants with no petals,
sepals function as petals. Stamens? Short answer is that it
is the male reproductive part of a flower. A long slender stalk, the filament,
with a two-lobed anther at the tip. (The anther consists of four saclike
structures that produce pollen). Carpels? They are the female
bits, which are responsible for the production of male and female gametes (the
reproductive cells of a plant) for fertilisation.
Seeds and fruits - The seeds and fruits are basically the results of fertilisation of the
plant. A fruit is the part of a flowering plant that contains the seeds,
and the skin may be thin, tough, or hard. But some fruits, including nuts, are
dry, and are basically the seeds of fruits. Angiosperms, also called
flowering plants, have seeds that are enclosed within an ovary (usually a
fruit), while gymnosperms have no flowers or fruits, and have unenclosed
or ‘naked’ seeds on the surface of scales or leaves, like cones.
Now for some random technical stuff. Gosh, there
are more terms than I have space for, so I will name just a few.
abbreviation for the three main nutrients that are absolutely necessary for
plants - nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). They are also known as
‘macronutrients,’ and the three numbers are commonly found on fertiliser
term used to describe a plant that has gone to seed prematurely.
yellowing of the leaves due to lack of chlorophyll, nutrients or
fleshy underground stem or runner. Creeping grasses spread by
A genus is a
rank in the biological classification. It stands above species, and below
families. A genus can include more than one species. When biologists talk about
a genus, they mean one or more species of plants that are closely related to
Another name for a specific ‘variety’ of plant, selected for characteristics.
For instance, Dazzling Blue and Curly Scotch are different cultivars
Grafting - A
technique when a cut portion of a plant is joined or fused to another – to grow
together as one plant. For instance, to graft a specific variety of apple onto
a different hardy apple rootstock. The resulting plant will produce fruit true
to the graft used.
Lastly, an important one, Xeriscaping: To
create a low-maintenance landscape with native plants and small or non-existent
areas of turf grass. One of the primary goals of xeriscaping is to reduce
landscape water use.
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.