Our ‘A’ to ‘Z’ of Gardening Terms

Terms that begin with “A”

abscisic acidA growth-inhibiting hormone.
abscissionThe dropping of leaves, flowers, or fruit by a plant. This can result from natural growth processes (e.g., fruit ripening) or from external factors such as temperature or chemicals.
abscission layerSpecialized cells, usually at the base of a leaf stalk or fruit stem, that trigger both the separation of the leaf or fruit and the development of scar tissue to protect the plant.
absorptionThe intake of water and other materials through root or leaf cells.
accumulated heat unitsThe number of hours in a growing season. Usually calculated at temperatures above 50°F, but can be calculated at other temperatures, depending on the crop. A day’s heat units (above 50°F) are calculated as:

Daily values are then totaled for the season, with values less than zero ignored (but not deducted from the total).
acid soilSoil with a pH below 7 on a pH scale of 0 to 14. The lower the pH, the more acid the soil. See pH.
actinomorphic flowerA flower possessing radial symmetry. Any cut through the center divides the flower into two equal parts.
active ingredientThe chemical in a pesticide formulation that actually kills the target pest.
additiveA substance that, when added to a pesticide, reduces the surface tension between two unlike materials (e.g., spray droplets and a plant surface), thus improving adherence. Also called an adjuvant or surfactant.
adjuvantSee additive.
adventitiousGrowth not ordinarily expected, usually the result of stress or injury. A plant’s normal growth comes from meristematic tissue, but adventitious growth comes from nonmeristematic tissue.
adventitious budA bud in an unusual place on a plant, often on an internode. This may be the result of an injury. Suckers and water sprouts usually grow from adventitious buds.
adventitious rootA root in an unusual place, often where a branch contacts soil or damp material. A plant cannot be reproduced from cuttings or layering unless adventitious roots develop.
aerationMechanically loosening or puncturing soil to increase permeability to water and air.
aerial rootA root emerging above the soil level.
aerobicActive in the presence of free oxygen.
after-ripeningThe seed maturation process that must be completed before germination can occur.
aggregate fruitA group of small fruits derived from several ovaries within a single flower.
aggregationThe process by which individual particles of sand, silt and clay cluster and bind together to form soil peds.
alkaline soilSoil with a pH above 7 on a pH scale of 0 to 14. The higher the reading, the more alkaline the soil. See pH.
alkaloidA nitrogen-containing compound frequently used as a chemical defense by plants.
allelopathyThe excretion by some plants of compounds from their leaves and/or roots that inhibit the growth of other plants.
ammonium (NH4+)A plant-available form of nitrogen contained in many fertilizers and generated in the soil by the breakdown of organic matter. See nitrogen cycle.
anaerobicActive in the absence of free oxygen.
angiospermA member of a class of plants characterized by the formation of flowers and seeds in fruits.
anionA negatively charged ion. Plant nutrient examples include nitrate (NO3–), phosphate (H2PO4–), and sulfate (SO42-). See cation.
annualA plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.
annual ringA cylinder of secondary xylem added to the wood in a single growing season.
antherThe pollen-bearing part of a flower’s male sexual organ. The filament supports the anther; together they are referred to as the stamen.
anvil prunerA pruning tool that cuts a branch between one sharpened blade and a flat, anvil-shaped piece of metal. These have a tendency to crush rather than make a smooth cut.
apexThe tip of a stem or root.
apical budA bud at the tip of a stem.
apical dominanceThe inhibition of lateral bud growth by the presence of the hormone auxin in a plant’s terminal bud. Removing the growing tip removes auxin and promotes lateral bud break and subsequent branching, usually directly below the cut.
apical meristemA region of actively dividing cells at the tip of a growing stem or root.
arboretumAn area devoted to specimen plantings of trees and shrubs.
asexual reproductionSee vegetative propagation.
aspectDirection of exposure to sunlight.
assimilationThe building of cell matter from inorganic and organic materials (carbohydrates and sugars).
attractantA material that lures pests.
autotrophic nutritionA form of nutrition in which complex food molecules are produced by photosynthesis from carbon dioxide, water, and minerals.
auxinOne of the best known and most important plant hormones. Most abundantly produced in a plant’s actively growing tips. Generally, stimulates growth by cell division in the tip region and by cell elongation lower down the shoot. Growth of lateral buds is strongly inhibited by the normal concentration of auxin in the growing tip.
available water supplySoil water that is available for plant uptake. Excludes water bound tightly to soil particles.
axilThe upper angle formed by a leaf’s stalk (petiole) and the internodes above it on a stem.
axillary budA bud that forms on an axil.
axillary bud primordiumAn immature axillary bud.