Scrabbling in the garden

We earn admiring murmurs when we display our garden's produce in vases and on plates.

Why don't we stir up a bit of that admiration by tossing a nifty horticultural term or two on the table during the next Scrabble game?

This page Sponsored by:

Recent fun we've added to our lexicon:
pleaching, and Tepal trouble petal puzzle

Others added recently:

abscise                 axil                     marcescent     midrib
                cyme*                 sepal*              tepal*
             drupe*                silicle*             umbel*
    pistil*                  stamen*          windthrow
                  raceme*              stipe*               pinnate
epicormic             rachis                  rive                  scuffle

*Asterisked words are further explained in an interactive puzzle


Plus one nifty word that came looking for a place here. We couldn't grant it permanent residency, but:
Bissextile: adjective; A leap year.
This bisextile year is
even more unusual than some leap years, in that it has 53 Sundays and three Friday the 13th's.



Scrabbling terms are listed in alphabetical order.

Scroll to browse, or

Skip to first word beginning with C
Skip to first word beginning with E
Skip to first word beginning with G
Skip to first word beginning with I
Skip to first word beginning with L
Skip to first word beginning with M
Skip to first word beginning with P
Skip to first word beginninng with R
Skip to first word beginning with T
Skip to first word beginning with U


AxilBudLilac9064.jpgAbscise: verb; ab SYZ; to separate naturally, as a
leaf from a twig, a spent petal from a flower
structure or fruit from a branch;
When the leaves abscise, the sun can reach in
to warm us.

Abscission layer: noun; ab SIZhun; the corky material a woody plant produces to separate the twig from the leaf stalk, flower or fruit;
In fall an abscission layer stoppers the openings
where sap from the wood entered the leaf veins, and
where starch flowed from leaf to wood.

Axil: noun; AKS il; the angle formed by the branch and the leaf stalk that departs from it;
In the leaf axil in autumn are axillary buds, which
are compressed shoots that will develop into a
branch or a flower cluster.

Right: Arrows point to an axillary leaf bud and
also to a terminal bud cut open so you can see
its flowering shoot.

Burl: noun; BUHRL; A rounded knotty growth on a tree, sometimes created as the tree grows over damage caused by fungi, insects or mites. Prized by carvers as very hard wood with interesting character when polished.
Have you noticed that lumpy looking tree, with the burl that looks like a face?

Carp- and carpo-; adjective; fruit, referring to fruit/seed;
When we see -carp in a plant's scientific name we know there is something significant about the fruit, as in the American tree holly named
Ilex opaca 'Xanthocarpa' for its yellow berries. (Now, hold those Scrabble tiles: This is a departure from our usual list. -carp and -carpo are not complete words but elements to be combined with other words.)


Carpel; noun; CAR pul; a seed production chamber within the pistil of a flower; a pistil may have just one or a number of carpels and the number may be an identifying characteristic of the species;
An apple usually has one pistil with five carpels.

Coriaceous: adjective; COR ee AY shus; leathery in look or feel;
Some orchid species are known for their coriaceous leaves.

Cyme: noun; rhymes with TIME; an arrangement of flowers on a stem where the individual peduncles (stalks) attach at various spots on the main stem and then rise variously to create a broad, flat topped flower cluster with a central bud which opens first;
Many lace-cap flowers are arranged in cymes.
(Further illustration);

Dioecious: adjective; dy EE shus; Having male and female flowers on separate plants;
Since ginkgo trees are dioecious, if your tree is producing fruit you know that it's a female tree and also that there must be a male nearby which is contributing pollen.

Drupe: noun; DROOP; fruit with (usually) one single hard seed, such as in the Rose family: cherry, peach or the compound drupe raspberry.
If you bite down on a cherry pit or a raspberry seed you understand why drupe is also called a stone fruit.

Eclose: verb; ee KLOHZ; Emerge from an egg, specifically applied to insect emergence.
It's hard to kill an insect that's sheltered within an egg but if you apply an oil just before the eggs eclose, the young insects emerge through a film of oil that can kill by clogging their airways.

Epicormic: adjective; EHPUH kor mik; Growth that arises from a dormant bud exposed to light and air.
When the "poor circulation" of old age, or borer infestation, girdling or physical damage interfere with the passage of starch from the leaves that produce it to the needy wood and roots of a tree, the canopy thins, light penetrates to the previously shaded trunk and epicormic shoots may suddenly burst from under the bark.

Epiphyte: noun; EHP uh fight; a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant, or on an object, obtaining its moisture and nutrients from air, rain and accumulated debris; adjective, epiphytic;
Orchids, ferns and bromeliads are the well-known epiphytes of the tropics, while in the temperate regions most epiphytes are mosses, lichens and liverworts.


Espalier: ess PAL yur; also ess PAL yay; also other acceptable pronunciations;
noun; a plant trained to grow flat against a building or other support, or the support a flat trained plant grows upon.
Let's grow an espalier on that wall. (More...)
verb; to train to grow flat, or to furnish with a flat-trained plant.
I espaliered that pear tree; I'm thinking of espaliering that wall.

Extirpate:  verb; EK stur payt; to wipe out;
When we alter environments in a region we may extirpate species that cannot adapt.
(Note: Extirpation can occur in just one portion of a species' range, while extinction is to be eliminated completely from the world.)

Genotype: noun; JEE noh typ; the genetic makeup of a living thing, passed from one generation to the next, used as a blueprint for building and maintaining a living creature.
Within a plant species that occurs across a geographic area with diverse climate and features, there are almost certainly numerous distinct genotypes that are local specialists such as very cold resistant plants in the colder part of the range, later blooming plants where the season is longer, shorter plants in mountainous regions, individuals tolerant of flooding, etc.

Grex: noun; GREX; a collective term for varieties of a plant that have the same hybrid origin; (also, as a verb, to grumble or complain shrilly);
The orchids that come from crosses between species of
Brassavola, Cattleya and Laelia are the x Brassolaeliocattleya grex.
Even great taxonomists have been known to grex about the difficulty of keeping order among the 20,000 species of the Orchid family.

Instar: noun; INZ tar; a stage of development in the life of an insect, usually marked by enlargement and molt -- the shedding of an exoskeleton. Also, an individual immature insect.
Some insects progress through several instars before assuming their adult appearance; a gardener may not recognize the instar if he or she is only familiar with the mature insect.

: noun; LITH oh fight; a plant that grows on rock, a plant with a hard stony structure, or a plant-like organism that fits either description; adjective, lithophytic;
Some orchids such as the tiny one pictured here are lithophytes, growing well on rock faces.



Marcescent: adjective; mar SES ent; withering but not falling off, as a blossom that persists on a twig after flowering or leaf that hangs on after it's no longer green;
Many oaks have marcescent leaves, especially on the juvenile branches that have not yet produced flowers.
Below: This chestnut-leaf oak (
Quercus prinus) has marcescent leaves still clinging from the previous year even after its spring flowers turn brown.



Midrib: noun; MID rib; the central vein of a leaf (arrow, right), usually continuous with the leaf stalk;
Some leaves have one central vein or midrib,  others have several main veins splayed like a fan.


Monoecious: adjective; muh NEE shus; having both male and female structures on the same plant.
Dogwoods are monoecious, so if the tree is healthy enough to flower it should also produce its red fruits.


Parthenocarpy: noun; PAR thu no KAR pee; the production of fruit without fertilization;
Parthenocarpy and parthenocarpic plants are a mystery that gives us seedless bananas, oranges, persimmon, pineapple and grape.

Permaculture: noun; PUR mah kul chur; The development of food-producing ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient;
We can create a permaculture that will outlive us by planting a property with hardy trees, shrubs, vines and other perennials that produce a variety of edible fruits and nuts for humans and wildlife.

Petiole: noun; PEH tee ohl; the stalk by which a leaf is attached to a stem;
Call it a leafstalk or call it a petiole, same thing!

Phenology: noun; fu NAHL uh jee; the study of the influence of climate on biological phenomenon such as variations in fur, bark, or flower;
When we wander around a friend's garden in a differ
ent region from our own, remarking on things like stouter junipers with thicker bark in an oceanside setting, we are studying phenology. We may even see its influence on our own windowsill.


  Pinnate; adjective; PIN nayt; resembling a feather, especially in having similar
  parts arranged like barbs on opposite sides of an axis;

  Many fern fronds have a pinnate







Pistil: noun; PISS tuhl; female reproductive part of a flower.
A female holly plant's flowers are called pistillate because they have only a pistil and no pollen producing part.
(Further illustration here... and here.)


Pleach: verb; rhymes with teach; woody plants with living branches deliberately woven together, especially when two different individuals' branches are held pressed together until they form grafts.
Pleached: adjective; woody plant branches pressed together over time so that cambium layers unite
We pleach branches from two pears to form an arch over a walkway, and when those limbs graft to one another, we have formed a living, pleached arbor.

Rachis: noun; RAY kus; a main axis or shaft, such as the main stem of a multi-part (compound) leaf;
After all the tiny leaflets fall from the locust leaf, then the twig-like rachis falls, much to the irritation of those who dislike how its kind tangle in the rake's tines.
Below, right: Arrows mark the beginning and end of the
Aralia elata 'Vaiegata' rachis, which is the beginning and end of a single leaf composed of many leaflets. AraliaRachis4044.jpg


Raceme: noun; ray SEEM; arrangement of flowers in a cluster in which flowers are attached to the main stem by their individual peduncles and the stem tip continues to produce new buds above open- and spent blooms;
Many flowers that gardeners refer to as "spikes" are actually racemes, including snapdragon and delphinium. (Further illustration here and here.)

Rhizome: noun; RY zohm; A stem that grows along the ground or just below ground and develops roots from its lower side, leaves and flowering stalks from the upper surface. The plant that grows rhizomes is described as rhizomatous. Rhizomes are usually distinguished from another root-stem, the stolon, by their thickness -- a result of being a starch storage organ -- and their position mostly below ground.

  When we split pieces of a bearded iris clump
  to make new plants people often call the
  rhizomes iris "bulbs" or iris "roots."

Rive: verb; RYV; To break into pieces, as by a blow; cleave or split asunder;
When you use a hammer to rive the black walnut's shell, there are far more pieces to pick up than otherwise!

Scuffle: verb; SKUH ful; to move with a quick shuffling gait, scurry, poke at or disturb, scuff;
We hope a child learns to scuffle joyfully in fall leaves, and doesn't think the term means only 'to brawl'.


Sepal: noun; SEE pul; modified leaves which cover a flower bud, then remain beneath the flower after it opens;
Many flowers have distinctive sepals which subtend the blossom; one example is the florist's carnation. ( Further illustration.)

Septum: noun; SEP tum; thin divider between two cavities or masses of tissue, such as the thin, hard divider between kernels in a nut;
Don't you hate it when you're cracking nuts for cookies and that hard, stab-your-gums septum falls in and hides among the nut meats?!

Silicle: noun; SIL luh kul; type of flattened, round or oval, many-seeded pod peculiar to the Mustard family, it splits open along both margins when ripe; shorter and more disk-like than the elongated but otherwise similar silique;
the papery, disk-like
silicles that bear the seeds of weedy shepherd's purse to those of candytuft (Iberis) and money plant (
Lunaria annua), and you know the three are related.
(Further illustration.)

Stamen: noun; STAY mun; part of the flower where pollen is produced;
The stamen is considered the "male" portion of a flower and consists of a filament which is topped by an anther where pollen grains develop.
(Further illustration.)

Stipe: noun; rhymes with PIPE; the stalk of a mushroom, also the stalk of a fern or seaweed frond;
Characteristics of the stipe are often useful in identifying mushrooms in the field. ( Further illustration.)

Stipule: noun; STiP yool; outgrowth from the sides or base of a leafstalk;
If you have plucked an entire rose leaf rather than just one leaflet of many, you will see a stipule at the base of the petiole.

Stolon: noun; STOH lun; a stem that runs horizontally on or just below the soil surface, rooting from its underside and producing stems from its upper side. Usually distinguished from another such root-stem, the rhizome, by its ability to grow completely above ground and the rhizome's greater tendency to thicken and store starch.
The stems of stoloniferous plants are called stolons or sometimes runners... and often gardeners call them "trouble" for rampant expansion of their plant's territory.

Tepal: noun; TEE pul; modified leaves that cover a flower bud (usually called sepals) which continue to grow and develop color as the flower blooms.
When the sepals are indistinguishable from the petals of a flower they earn the name tepal; Iris flowers have three petals and three tepals.. ( Further illustration.)

Tuber: noun; TOO bur; starch storage section of a root.
A potato plant stores starch in its roots and we harvest the tubers.

Umbel: noun; UHM bul; a flower cluster arranged with florets' individual stalks (peduncles) arising from approximately the same point on the stem, and the center floret of the cluster youngest, blooming last
To picture an umbel flower, think of an umbrella with a flower bud at its tip top and one open flower at the end of each spoke. (Further illustration here  and here.)

Windthrow: noun or verb; WINd throw; the uprooting and overthrowing of trees by the wind; Such a great deal of windthrow resulted from last night's storm!


KoskiSeal.jpgYou, too can be a Sponsor!