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Orchid Structural Terms


At times we come across terms (related to orchids) which are difficult to understand. So I have put together a list of such words which are used when referring to the structure of orchids. This is not an exhaustive list, however I have tried to include more commonly used terms.

Abaxial: the side away from the axis (stem), generally refers to the lower surface
Acuminate: tapering to a slender point
Adaxial: the side facing the axis (stem), generally refers to the upper surface
Adnate: when an organ is joined with another (e.g. a petal attached to the column)
Adventitious: organs which develop at locations other than usual one, e.g. roots developing from leaves or stems.
Aerial: growing in an exposed condition in air/atmosphere
Anther: part of stamen that contains pollen
Apex: tip
Apical: at the apex of any structure, e.g. at the top of the stem or pseudobulb
Autotrophic: plants which are able produce their own food in the presence of sunlight
Axil: angle formed by a leaf/bract with the axis branch/stem from which it arises
Basal: situated at the base of an organ such as stem or pseudobulb
Bilobate: having two lobes
Blotch: irregularly coloured patch
Bracts: leaf-like organ bearing flower/inflorescence in its axil
Caducous: that which falls off early
Calceolate: slipper-shaped (e.g. flower of a Paphiopedilum)
Capsule: fruit or seed case of orchids
Cauline: growing on the stem
Cilia: minute hair like structures usually found around the margins of organs
Column: reproductive part of the flower, present in the centre and consists of fused male (style) and female (stigma) reproductive organs
Conduplicate: folded lengthwise such that both side are face to face
Connivent: converging but not fused
Corolla: white/coloured inner whorl of the flower, also called the petals
Cymbiform: having boat shaped concave surface
Dentate: with outward facing acute teeth along the margin
Dichotomous: dividing into two, e.g. stem dividing into two branches
Disc: upper surface of the middle portion of the lip
Dorsal: related to the back of a structure like lower surface of a leaf; abaxial
Floral bract: bract from whose axil the flower arises
Foliaceous: having leaf-like appearance
Fringed: hair like extensions present at the margin
Glandular: possessing glands
Gynostemium: column of an orchid flower; the androecium and gynaecium combined
Hyaline: that which is colourless/translucent
Hypochile: lower section of jointed labellum of some orchids
Imbricate: a regularly overlapping surface
Inferior: when describing the ovary which lies beneath the perianth
Inverted: turned upside down or reverse position
Involute: inwardly curved
Labellum: the third petal of orchid flowers, which is usually larger in size than other two petals and is sometimes highly modified
Lamella: a thin flat membrane
Lamina: a flattened part of an organ, like leaf blade or the broad middle part of the labellum
Lateral: at the side, as in the two lateral sepals/petals of orchid flower
Lip: a modified abaxial petal, also called the labellum
Membranaceous: thin, more or less translucent layer
Node: joint on the stem from where the leaves or flowers arise
Ovary: part of the flower which contains the ovules, it is present within the flower near its base
Panicle: inflorescence which is further branched, e.g. the inflorescence of Oncidium sphacelatum
Perianth: when referring to calyx and corolla jointly
Petal: part of corolla (flower), inner whorl of perianth
Petiole: narrow stem-like stalk of a leaf
Pollinia: compact mass of pollen found inside the anther
Pseudobulb: swollen part of a stem, occurring in the base, generally found in epiphytic orchids
Resupinate: when an orchid flower twisted by 108 degrees during development such that the lip comes to lie at the bottom of the flower
Rhizome: modified stem which bears roots, it may or may not be subterranean
Scape: stem like structure which bears flowers
Tepals: used for perianth when calyx and corolla are similar
Sepal: part of calyx, outer whorl of perianth
Velamen: outer tissue of aerial roots of orchids, having sponge-like nature
Zygomorphic: a structure which can be divided into two similar parts vertically, usually used for flowers



Sources:
Chowdhery, H.J. 1998. Orchid Flora of Arunachal Pradesh.
Dressler, Robert L. 1993. Phylogeny and Classification of the Orchid Family
.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Anu Dubey Dharmani. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Anu Dubey Dharmani. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Anu Dubey Dharmani for details.

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