Glossary

In this Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting, botanical words and explanations have been simplified for educational purposes. People who work with fynbos use many words that are unfamiliar to the general public. If you find a word that you do not understand in this book, you can look for its meaning in this section.

Alien [say: ay-lee-en] – This word describes plants and animals that do not live naturally in a given area. Alien plants and animals are brought in to an area by people, sometimes by accident. Some are so successful in their new home that they start to ‘invade’ the area and take over from the plants and animals that live there naturally.

Biodiversity [say: by-oh-die-vur-suh-tee] – ‘Bio’ means life, and ‘diversity’ means different types. So ‘biodiversity’ means the different types of plants and animals in an area. The fynbos has many different types (or species) of plants, so we say that it has a ‘high level of biodiversity’. A ‘biodiversity hotspot’ is an area where you find a high level of biodiversity and many rare and/or threatened plants or animals.

Biome [say: by-ohm] – A natural region like desert, forest, fynbos or grassland. The climate, soil and other conditions in a natural region influence the plants and animals that can live there.

Botany [say: boh-tah-nee] – The study of plants. A ‘botanist’ is a person who studies plants. ‘Botanical’ means having something to do with plants.

Bract [say: brakt] – Part of a plant that looks like a leaf and is found where the flower grows from the stem. In some plants like Proteas, the parts of the flower that look like petals are actually bracts.

Broadcast sowing [say: brawd-carst so-ing] – To sow seed by throwing handfuls of seed onto the ground. It is not advised to broadcast seed in fynbos veld, because the plants that are sown there can take over from the plants that grow there naturally. This will reduce biodiversity.

Classification [say: klah-sih-fih-kay-shun] – The practice of putting things into groups or classes based on how similar or different they are to one another. Classification helps us to order and make sense of large numbers of different items or species.

Conservation [say: kon-sur-vay-shun] – The act of protecting and carefully managing nature and the environment.
Ecosystem [say: ee-ko-sis-tem] – A community made up of plants, animals and smaller living things. They all live, feed, reproduce and interact in the same area or environment.

Environment [say: in-vy-row-ment] – The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal or plant lives.

Endemic [say: en-dem-ik] – Types (species) of plants and animals that are found only in a particular area. They are not found anywhere else in nature.

Ericoid [say: eh-rih-koid] – A word that describes small leaves that feel tough and leathery. The edges of these leaves roll under to form a narrow groove. This type of leaf is named after the leaves of plants in the Erica family.

Extinct [say: ek-stinkt] – A word that describes a type of plant or animal that can no longer be found alive anywhere on Earth. It has died out completely. The process of going extinct is called ‘extinction’ [say: ek-stink-shun]. Some species are ‘extinct in the wild.’ This means that they no longer survive in nature, but they may still be found in gardens.

Floret [say: floh-ret] – A simple flower that, together with others, forms a flower head known as an ‘inflorescence’. A Protea ‘flower’ is actually a flower head made up of bracts surrounding a centre made up of many florets.

Fynbos [say: fain-boss] – A type of veld found mainly in parts of the Western Cape where the rain falls in winter. Very few trees grow in the fynbos. Most of the plants are shrubs (bushes), bulb plants and reeds. Fynbos got its name because many of the bushes (bos) have small or ‘fine’ (fyn) leaves.

Greater Cape Floral Kingdom – There are six floral kingdoms on Earth. These are large areas where you find special groups or families of flowering plants. The Cape Floral Kingdom is found mainly in the Western Cape. It is the smallest floral kingdom on Earth. Families of plants found in the Cape Floral Kingdom include the Protea, Erica and Restio families.

Habitat [say: hah-bih-tat] – The natural home or environment of an animal, plant or other living thing.

Indigenous [say: in-dih-jih-nus] – This word describes a plant or animal that lives naturally in a given area or ecosystem. In other words, people did not bring this plant or animal to the area. We can also say that the plant or animal is ‘native’ to that area.

Inflorescence [say: in-floh-reh-sense] – A group or cluster of flowers on one stem. It is also called a ‘flower head’. A Protea ‘flower’ is really an inflorescence made up of many smaller flowers called ‘florets’. These florets are surrounded by a ring of bracts. Many other plants, e.g. aloes and agapanthus, also have clusters of flowers, or inflorescences.

Invasive [say: in-vay-siv] – This word describes some alien plants and animals that spread into the landscape and take over from indigenous plants and animals. Invasive species usually do better than indigenous species because they have no natural pests or diseases in their new surroundings. Not all alien species are invasive. Some invasive alien plants that threaten fynbos are Myrtle, Rooikrans, Port Jackson willow and Black Wattle.

Marsh [say: märsh] – A poorly drained area of land that is sometimes flooded. Marshes are often found at the edge of lakes, streams and estuaries.

Nectar [say: nek-tur] – A sweet liquid produced by plants (usually by flowers). Nectar is made by glands called nectaries [say: nek-tur-eez]. Nectar attracts insects, birds and other animals that pollinate the flower while drinking the sweet liquid.

Pioneer plant [say: py-o-neer] – A plant that grows well in soil that has been disturbed or cleared by ploughing, fire or trampling. Pioneer plants are hardy because they need to grow in full sun and in poor soil. They ‘colonise’ an area and make it suitable for less hardy plants to grow.

Pollinate [say: poh-lih-nate] – To move pollen from one flower to another so that the plant can form seeds. Wind and animals (like birds and insects) are often involved in the process called pollination [say: poh-lih-nay-shun].

Resprouter [say: ree-sprau-tur] – A plant that can re-grow after being burned in a veld fire. New branches and leaves grow from buds under the bark of woody branches, or from underground tubers.

Rootstock [say: root-stok] – This is the underground part of a plant, made up of roots and an underground stem (or rhizome), which can produce stems and branches above the ground. In the fruit industry, the rootstock is a stump with healthy roots on to which the farmer grafts a cutting of a high quality fruit tree.

Shrub – A woody plant (bush) that is smaller than a tree. It usually has several stems growing from the base, rather than a single trunk.

Single-stemmed [say: sing-gul stemd] – Plants that grow from a seed and have one main stem (like a tree) rather than many branches (like a shrub).

Species [say: spee-sees or spee-sheez] – A group of animals or plants that look similar and can breed and produce fertile young.

Seedling [say: see-dling] – A very young plant that grows from a single seed.

Sustainability [say: suh-stay-na-bih-luh-tee] – If an activity is sustainable, it should be able to continue in the long term. To harvest fynbos sustainably, we must pick with care so that the plants can continue to produce flowers year after year.

Vegetation [say: veh-ji-tay-shun] – Another word for ‘plant life’. A biome can contain many different types of vegetation. For example, in the Fynbos Biome you will find different collections of fynbos plants growing in the mountains, near the sea, in marshy areas and in different types of soil.

Plant-Glossary