General Terms of Plant Morphology

adapted from Woody Plants of the Blue Ridge by Ron Lance. Used by permission.

To see photographic examples of a term, click the camera next to it in the list of botanical terms.


Texture and Appearance:

Glabrous vs. “Hairy”:

Smooth, hairless surfaces are glabrous.
"Hairy” surfaces (not true hairs) bear epidermal trichomes of varying lengths and appearance:

  • Pubescent = short, soft hairs
  • Scabrous = hard, short, rigid hairs (“sandpapery”)
  • Tomentose = dense, short, rigid hairs
  • Felty = densely tomentose
  • Hispid = bristly hairs
  • Silky = close-pressed, soft and straight hairs
  • Glandular-hispid = sticky glands on the hair tips, or stalked glands (stipitate-glandular)
  • Woolly = long, tortuous or matted hairs
  • Bristly = stiff, strong trichomes

Scurfy coverings are scale-like or bran-like panicles or glands, sometimes mixed with close, loosely attached trichomes.

A granular surface is bumpy or irregular due to scurfy scales.

Peltate glands are flattened, bran-like scales which look like small fringed dots (use lens).

A mealy surface shows a white scurfy substance.

Corrugated surfaces are folded, channeled, or deeply lined.

Rugose surfaces are wrinkled.

Glaucous surfaces have a whitened or pale color, sometimes caused by a powdery or waxy bloom. When blooms are present, these pale waxy coverings rub off easily with handling, as in blueberry fruit or raspberry canes.

Punctate surfaces show minute dots. These dots may be pale or darkened glands or depressions on the epidermis.

Glandular dots and resin globules are usually lustrous specks, best visible at an angle to light.

Winged plant parts include green leaf-like growth along small stems such as petioles or rachi, corky growth of bark cells on twigs or branchlets, or membrane-like attachments to seed or fruit.


Other properties:

Aromatic properties are found in fresh sap fluids and are best ascertained from scraping or bruising of tissues. Identification of potentially poisonous plants is recommended before experimentation in this area.

Astringent properties of sap and fruit juices cause "puckering" sensations of the mouth.