GLOSSARY OF TECHNICAL TERMS  
 

 
 

acrocarpous   used to describe an erect habit in mosses 
 
alternation of generations      term referring to a life cycle in which there is more than one free-living stage, typically a spore-producing sporophyte and a gamete-producing gametophyte 
 
anisogametes    motile gametes which differ slightly in size 
 
autotrophic nutrition  synthesis of organic food molecules from inorganic compounds such   as carbon dioxide  

benthic  attached and submerged 

bisexual   having both male and female sex organs 

circinnate vernation  the coiled arrangement of young leaves of ferns & cycads 
 
coenobium    a colony of a fixed number of cells  

coenocytic     multinucleate, formed by nuclear divion without cross wall formation  

cryptogam    an old term for a non-seed plant; cryptogam means hidden wedding, i.e. as they produced no seeds their sex lives were unknown for a long time  

dioecious    used to describe plant species in which male and female sex organs are borne on separate individuals 

endospory   a condition in which the gametophyte develops within the spore wall, rather than externally 

epiphyte    a plant that grows on another plant. No parasitism is involved. The epiphyte must be rooted on the surface of the host. Vines rooted in the soil and climbing up on another plant are not epiphytes.  

eukaryote    organism the cells of which have a defined nucleus and internal membranes 

flagellum/a    whip-like extension of the protoplasm for propelling the cell  
 

floridean starch    an algal reserve resembling glycogen or amylopectin  

free nuclear division    mitotic division of nuclei without accompanying cytokinesis, i.e. nuclei divide in a common cytoplasm, the cells walls only forming around each later  

homospory   a condition in which an organism produces only one type  and size of spore, viz. microspores 

heterospory    a condition in which an organism produces two different types and sizes of spores, viz. microspores and megaspores 

heterotrichous (filament)    a growth pattern of algae with prostrate filaments for attachment and erect, spreading filaments for photosynthesis  

holdfast    algal organ for attachment  

hygroscopic movement     movement by the gain or loss of water  

inferior     ovary is embedded below the point of attachment of the perianth and anthers

irregular symmetry    irregular flowers are bilaterally symmetrical; they are divisible into equal halves about 1 plane only

laminarin    a 1,3 glucan reserve  

monoecious     used to describe a species in which a single plant carries both male and female sex organs 

oogamy    reproduction in which the female gamete is large and non-motile and the male gamete small and motile.  

paramylon    a 1,3 glucan reserve  

perianth    a collective term for the sepals and petals of the flower, especially when these are indistinguisable 

Phanerogam     the seed plant - gymnosperms or angiosperm.The term literally means "open wedding" and refers to the fact that reproduction in these plants was clearly understood unlike the case in lower plants (Cryptogams) in which it was for a long time something of a mystery. 

phycobilin - class of pigment found only in algae, comprising red phycoerythrin and blue-green phycocyanin  

planktonic - free-floating  

pleurocarpous - prostrate (used for mosses)  

prokaryote    simple organism without a defined nucleus or internal membranes  

protonema (pl. protonemata) the filamentous (moss) or thallose (fern) gametophyte stage of non-seed plants  

pyrenoid     proteinaceous region of chloroplast, sometimes the site of accumulation of carbohydrate reserves  

regular symmetry    regular flowers have radial symmetry; they are divisible into equal halves in 2 or more planes 

rhizoid     hair-like filamentous anchorage/absorbing organ  

ribosome        organelle responsible for protein synthesis 

seed fern    extinct seed-bearing plants with fern-like leaves 

sorus            cluster of sporangia of a fern  

sporophyll     a spore-bearing leaf  

stele            vascular tissue (the xylem and phloem together) 

superior     ovary is exposed - above the point of attachment of the perianth and anthers  

strobilus     a cone-shaped cluster of spore-bearing leaves 

thallus    term given to the body of a lower plant which has no recognisable shoot, root, leaf regions 

Thallophyte    an organism not differentiated into shoot and root, the cells of which have a cell wall; originally used for bacteria, fungi and algae. 

unisexual   having either male or female sex organs but not both