DEFINITIONS FOR PLANT DICTIONARY NOTES
Each plant has two types of names by which it may be referenced, or classified. One is the Scientific Name (or Species Name) which is unique and consists of two parts: The capitalized genus, followed by the lower case specific epithet, both of which are Latinized, and either italicized or underlined. The other is the Common Name, and while often easier to remember, it may not be unique to that plant, or a given plant may have several different Common Names. In addition, the capitalized Scientific Family Name of the plant is listed in parentheses, and is Latinized by ending in the letters -aceae; this is followed by the Common Family Name. A genus consists of one or more species, and a family likewise consists of one or more genera.
The indented fields below comprise features that contribute to the ornamental appeal of a plant: Its whole plant appearance, horticultural care, and identification traits.
- Form: The overall appearance of a plant, giving the reader a brief idea of what to expect from the plant in terms of its short- and long-term performance in the landscape.
- The Plant Size (small, medium, or large), Foliage Type (deciduous [which is the default, if not mentioned], semi-evergreen, or evergreen), and Plant Type (annual, bulb, fern, grass, groundcover, herb, perennial, shrub, tree, or vine, often with a descriptor such as evergreen, herbaceous, ornamental, shade, or woody); all combine in the first line to yield a brief generic description of the plant; for a detailed list, see the Plant Type and Plant Size lists (under Supplemental Notes below).
- Mature Height and Width (in feet ['] or inches ["]).
- Growth Habit (consisting of growth direction followed by growth shape, which is modified if this changes as the plant matures).
- Growth Rate (slow [less than 1' per year], medium [1' to 2' per year], or rapid [greater than 2' per year], as measured from the portion of the plant which grows most rapidly (generally the apex); this section is usually omitted for herbaceous plants (annuals, biennials, perennials, bulbs, ferns, and ornamental grasses), which generally die back to the ground every year.
- Culture: The horticultural conditions under which a plant yields optimum performance, the marginal conditions that it will tolerate, its methods of dispersal, and special maintenance concerns are given.
- Light, in terms of direct sunlight exposure per day (full sun = more than 6 hours, partial sun = 4 to 6 hours, partial shade = 2 to 4 hours, full shade = 0 to 2 hours, and deep shade = 0 hours).
- Moisture, as influenced by current water content in the environment and drainage potential of the site soil (wet, permanently moist, evenly moist, moist, and dry).
- Soil Preference and Soil Tolerance, including rich, average, poor, rocky, sandy, clay, and loamy soils; of good or poor drainage, organic content, and relative compaction; and of acidic [pH 6.5 or less], neutral [pH 6.5 to 7.5], or alkaline [pH 7.5 or greater, also known as basic or sweet] content, which primarily affects nutrient uptake for a given plant.
- Propagation Methods, including seeds, bulbs, crown division, rooted stem cuttings, grafting, suckers, root segments, etc.
- Family Common Name, to reflect the fact that, as in humans, resistance and susceptibility to sickness runs in plant families, which are groupings of common genera and species), followed by its susceptibility to Diseases (also called pathogens, mainly bacteria and fungi) and Pests (mainly insects).
- Availability, from the perspective of buying the plant from a commercial nursery or garden center (abundant, common, moderate, low, or rare), and its Shipping Condition (ball and burlap [B&B], bare root, container [pot], plug [often in cell packs in a flat], flat, bulb, or seed).
- Other special Maintenance Conditions or Cultural Notes, to optimize the performance of the plant in the landscape.
- Foliage: The growing season color (in Spring and Summer), abscission status in Autumn (deciduous [the default, if not mentioned], semi-evergreen, or evergreen), orientation on the stem (alternate, opposite, whorled, or clustered), morphology (including type, overall shape, size, apex, base, margin, and surfaces), and fall color (in Autumn) of the leaves of the plant.
- Flowers: The color(s), month of bloom, type, size, fragrance, and description of the inflorescences (solitary or grouped flowers) of the plant.
- Fruits: The color, size, maturity season, and description of the fruits of the plant.
- Twigs: The color of the stems and branches of a plant (if it is woody) plus any special features of the twigs, vegetative buds, and/or floral buds.
- Trunk: The number, color, and textural features of the trunk and bark of a plant (if it is woody).
- ID Summary: A quick review of the identification features of a given plant, sometimes including remarks on how it may be differentiated from similar-looking plants that it is often confused with.
The indented fields below are items that help to formulate decisions affecting the proper choice, design, and maintenance of a given plant in a specific landscape.
- Function: The proper application(s) of a plant in various landscape settings.
- Texture: The overall appearance of a plant relative to the type of "surface" that it has, plus the density of its foliage (in Summer) or stems (in Winter); texture may vary with plant age and the given season.
- Assets: The best features that a plant is noted for (and utilized for) in the landscape.
- Liabilities: The limiting features that prevent a plant from attaining its full potential in the landscape.
- Habitat: The range of climate zones that a plant can survive in throughout the entire year (not just in Winter; for a detailed list, see the USDA Hardiness Zones below [under Supplemental Notes]), plus the region of the world where the plant is native to, or if a hybrid, where its parents are native to.
Once a specific plant species is proposed for installation in a specific landscape, two factors may contribute to an alteration of the choice. First, an alternative species may have to be selected due to various factors relating to the preferred species (including high price, poor quality, low availability, and potential liabilities); or, variation on the theme of the selected species may be available to offer different forms of the original choice (usually in the form of cultivars [cultivated varieties]).
- Alternates: Plants that may serve as alternative substitutes if a given plant, with its distinctive and desired traits, is innappropriate for any number of reasons.
- Variants: A listing of some of the most common cultivars, varieties, hybrids, grafted forms, alternative species, etc. of a plant that occur in addition to the described form. Variants may differ in mature size, flower color, fruit density, bark texture, growth habit, etc. as compared to the described form (usually the straight species form).
The indented fields below encompass remaining items of interest about a plant.
- Translation: A translation from Botanical Latin to English of the components of the Scientific Name.
- Purpose: The purpose of becoming familiar with a given plant species (as listed by Common Name), to insure its proper usage and to realize its potential niche in a given landscape.
- Summary: The primary features that a plant species is known for (as listed by Scientific Name), plus comments on its usage.
- Plant Types:
- annual: herbaceous plant that dies with frosts or freezes (not a vegetable, unless it is ornamental)
- biennial: herbaceous plant that dies after two years of growth, with the second year being reproductive (flowering and fruiting) growth
- bulb: herbaceous perennial that arises from a relatively large underground storage organ
- fern: perennial noted for its frond foliage and spores, usually found in shady sites
- groundcover: plant with a generally prostrate growth habit, usually herbaceous or semi-woody
- herb: herbaceous plant noted for its culinary qualities, usually being an annual, biennial, or perennial
- ornamental grass: herbaceous plant with long thin foliage, usually in sunny sites, being an annual or perennial (this is not perennial turfgrass, which is mowed)
- perennial: herbaceous plant that lives indefinitely, initiating yearly topgrowth from its groundlevel crowns
- shrub: woody plant, usually multi-stemmed and rounded in appearance
- tree: woody plant, usually single-trunked and upright in appearance
- vine: annual (herbaceous) or perennial (semi-woody or woody) with a generally climbing growth habit on or around a supportive structure
- wildflower: an annual, biennial, or perennial that is not in wide propagation, found predominately in the wild
- Plant Size:
- miniature = 2' or less in height
- small = 2' to 5' in height
- medium = 5' to 10' in height
- large = 10' or more in height
- trees & vines:
- small = 5' to 20' in height
- medium = 20' to 40' in height
- large = 40' or more in height
- perennials (including all ornamental grasses, ferns, herbs, wildflowers, and traditional perennials that are cold-hardy) and biennials:
- miniature = 1' or less in height
- small = 1' to 2' in height
- medium = 2' to 5' in height
- large = 5' or more in height
- annuals (including all herbaceous plants that die with frosts or freezes) and all bulbs (annual or perennial)
- small = 1' or less in height
- medium = 1' to 2' in height
- large = 2' or more in height
- groundcovers (herbaceous, semi-woody, or woody):
- short = 0.5' or less in height
- medium = 0.5' to 1' in height
- tall = 1' or more in height
- USDA Hardiness Zones (average yearly minimum temperature)
- Zone 2 = -50 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit
- Zone 3 = -40 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit
- Zone 4 = -30 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit
- Zone 5 = -20 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit
- Zone 6 = -10 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit
- Zone 7 = 0 to +10 degrees Fahrenheit
- Zone 8 = +10 to +20 degrees Fahrenheit
Please note that all descriptions in the Plant Dictionary Notes are based upon observations from the Columbus, Ohio area (latitude 40 degrees north, longitude 83 degrees west, borderline between USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and 6, neutral to slightly alkaline pH topsoils, with light brown clay subsoils, and about 38 inches of rainfall per year), and while broadly applicable to other climates of the world, differences will occur in plant growth based upon local differences in soil, seasonal temperature and rainfall patterns, regional nursery sources, etc. In addition, while all attempts are made to ensure accuracy in descriptions, observations, and spelling, errors do occur, hopefully at a minimal level. Finally, the current choice of the limited number of plants photographed and described at this website primarily reflects a combination of the teaching palette for students of The Ohio State University, the available images, and the limited time of the staff, photographers, and author to assemble these plants into packageable entries on the web server.
Terms and organization used within this document (Definitions for Plant Dictionary Notes) and within each of the Plant Dictionary Notes were created by Dr. Scott Biggs and Dr. Tim Rhodus; while the actual contents within all of the above-cited documents were authored by Dr. Scott Biggs.
Dr. Biggs would also like to cite the following authors, whose reference material he used to supplement his own observations and experiences in the creation of the Plant Dictionary Notes:
- Bailey, Liberty Hyde, et. al. (1976). "Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada". Macmillan Publishing, New York, New York. 1290 pages.
- Coombes, Allen. (1985). "Dictionary of Plant Names". Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 205 pages. ISBN 0-88192-023-1
- Dirr, Michael. (1990). "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants". Fourth Edition, Stipes Publishing, Champaign, Illinois, 1007 pages. ISBN 0-87563-344-7
- Still, Steven. (1994). "Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants". Fourth Edition, Stipes Publishing, Champaign, Illinois, 814 pages. ISBN 0-87563-433-8