Good source for botanical term definitions, preferably with photo examples?

Hi, iNaturalists!

I’m wondering if there is a good source (online might be nice, but it doesn’t have to be, book would be fine) of definitions of botanical terms (e.g., caudice, pilose, glabrous, glabate, serrate, abaxial, adaxial, and on forever). I am computer science educated. I didn’t have to take any college biology courses (physics required, which I purposely forgot), although plants have been an interest since I was a child. Perhaps I should have studied botany – but I digress.

So, when I was recently looking at a description on eFloras of Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster, Starved Aster), I was overwhelmed. I found definitions for all terms from a combination of The Free Dictionary, Biology Online, and Wikipedia, and am writing it up in laymen’s terms (for the purpose of adding to the Wikipedia article and for my own understanding and knowledge).

But it would be so cool if something like this exists! Any thoughts? References?

6 Likes has a ton has illustrations for the terms typically applicable to our Midwest flora


I strongly recommend the book Plant Identification Terminology by Harris & Harris. All terms are illustrated with line drawing. First is a regular glossary, everything arranged alphabetically, and in the second half the terms are grouped by topic (leaves, leaf margins, leaf tips, etc.)


I think you’re my hero, @bouteloua. That PDF is a glorious thing.

Excellent, @sedgequeen! I’ll look it up!

Thanks to @orchidartist (Kathy Garness)!


Came here to post that recommendation. As a chemist by training instead of a botanist, this book has helped me get onto the learning curve.


an “evergreen”:


This is a really good glossary, from the New York Botanical Garden:

Expertly curated and assembled, with clear photographs and drawings.

(That key to Symphyotrichum is a real nightmare, though. You might be better off with a regional flora.)


Just adding my recommendation for this. Best reference book I have found so far for plant terminology.


That Harris and Harris book is one of the best. It was what our botany instructors recommended in grad school.

  • Beentje, Henk 2014 The Kew Plant Glossary - an Illustrated Dictionary of Plant Terms
  • Glimn-Lacy and Kaufman 2006 Botany Illustrated - Introduction to Plants, Major Groups, Flowering Plant Families

Are also both excellent.


I just want to endorse sedgequeen’s recommendation - Harris’ Plant Identification Terminology is a fantastic reference. I consult it frequently when trying to use flora, and have not yet encountered a term that’s not explained there (usually with an accompanying figure.)


OH! Thank you for that reminder! I forgot to post that I ordered Harris’ Plant Identification Terminology and it came a few days ago. I am very pleased and even find myself squinting in the dark to look up a term in it rather than try to find something online. Thank you, @sedgequeen, and everyone else for this recommendation!

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