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  Helpful Definitions

In this page we provide a glossary of commonly used terms.



Accent plant - A separate planting, often seasonal, of small herbaceous plants, bulbs or grasses, displayed in conjunction with bonsai when on formal display.
Accessory plant or planting - This term refers to additional plants within the confines of the bonsai pot as underplanting for the tree or trees, especially in larger group or Saikei plantings.
Accompaniment Plantings - A landscape in nature with plants and trees that would normally grow in the same environment; particular attention paid to compatible scale, color, variety, and species.
Acerifolius - Maple-like leaf form.
Acicular - Needle shaped (as in the foliage of pine trees).
Acuminate - Describes an organ (leaves, fruit) that ends in a point.
Adult Foliage - The mature leaves of a tree that has one type of young foliage and a distinctly different leaf shape at maturity.
Adpressus - A hugging plant form, pressing against.
Air Layering - A propagation method that creates conditions to encourage roots to form on the trunk or branch which is above the ground on a tree.
Albus - White color.
Alternate - Describes leaves or branches placed singly at different heights on either side of the stem or trunk.
Altus - Tall plant form.
Angustifolius - Narrow leaf form.
Apex - The top portion of the tree.
Aquifolius - Spiney leaf form.
Ara-Kawacho - A tree with rough bark.
Ara-ki - A freshly dug tree.
Arboreus - Tree-like plant form.
Argentius - Silvery color.
Armatus - Armed.
Aspect - A position facing in a particular direction. (referring to factors relating to direction of sunlight and prevailing winds).
Aureus - Golden color.
Australius - Of Australia.
Axil - The acute angle formed by a branch growing out from a stem or a leaf growing from a branch.
Azureus - Sky-blue color.
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Baccatus - Barbed or bearded.
Bankan - A spiralled trunk, or a trunk with many curves, coiled style.
Barbatus - Barbed or bearded.
Bilobate - Divided into two lobes, as of a leaf.
Bipinnate - Doubly pinnate, as of a leaf consisting of a central axis and lateral axes to which leaflets are attached.
Bolt - The growth of a plant too quickly to flower at the expense of good overall development.
Bonkei - A landscape created with sand, gravel, boats, huts, figurines and lanterns in a large, flat tray-shaped pot with no living plants.
Bonseki - A landscape created with mini figurines, nonliving foliage, and the appearance of water.
Borealis - Of the north.
Bract - A small leaf found near the flower on the stem; it differs from the other leaves in shape and color.
Broad-leaved - Leaves that are flat and relatively broad as compared to needle shaped or scale-like foliage.
Bud break - The stage when a leaf bud has opened just enough to show a green tip.
Bud Burst - The stage when the leaves emerge from the bud break and start to unfold and separate.
Bunjin or Bunjinji - Literati style, free form style that is unexplainable, irrespective of rules of style, design, and growth.
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Callus - Corky-texture tissue that forms over a wound on a trunk or branch.(e.g.: a pruned branch).
Cambium - A narrow layer of cell tissue growing between the bark and the wood of woody plants. In live wood, the cambium is green and moist.
Collected tree - A tree taken from the wild for training as bonsai.
Compound leaf - A leaf composed of two or more separate but similar parts, called leaflets.
Conifer - A tree that bears cones containing seeds. (most conifers are evergreens).
Cross - A hybrid plant, the results of cross- fertilization between species or varieties.
Crown - The upper part of the tree where the branches spread out from the trunk.
Cultivar - A variant plant produced in cultivation. Named cultivars are identified by the parent species followed by the cultivar name. eg: Acer Palmatum 'Deshojo'.
Cut-leaved - The description of a tree or shrub with leaves shaped in distinctive segments.
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Deciduous - The description if a tree or shrub that looses all its leaves annually, usually remaining bare-stemmed through the winter and developing new foliage in the spring.
Dieback - The death of young shoots or branch tips, due to extreme weather conditions or any of several fungus diseases.
Dioecious - Describes a plant which the male and female reproductive parts are borne on different individuals.
Divided leaf - A leaf formed of separate sections emerging from the same base.
Division - A method of propagating shrubby plants by dividing the rootball and replanting the separate sections.
Dwarf - The description of a variety or cultivar that is smaller than the species plant, though it has the same basic characteristics. Dwarfing can also occur through natural causes, dwarf cultivars are bred to be small.
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Ericaceous - A term referring to plants of the family ericaceae, generally indicating lime-hating plants that must be given lime free soils and fertilizers.
Evergreen - The description of a tree or shrub that retains leaves all year round.
Eye - Describes young buds on trees or shrubs.
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Fasciculate - Gathered in a bundle; describes flowers or leaves that grow in bunches.
Fruit - The part of the plant that carries the seed; the term generally includes the fleshy fruits and berries, pod like seed pouches and nuts.
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Genus - The unit of classification for a group of closely related plants. In a plants botanical name, the genisus is identified by the first word in the full name; e.g.: Acer.
Germination - The point when the seed starts into growth, subsequently developing roots and shoots.
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Habit - The characteristic growth pattern of a plant: for example a tree may have an upright , branching or prostrate habit.
Hardy - A term applied to plants capable of withstanding winter frost. Hardiness is relative to local climate and the degree of frost to which the plant may be exposed.
Hermaphrodite - The description of a plant that has both the male and female reproductive organs and is therefore self-fertilizing.
Humidity - The degree of moisture in the atmosphere.
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Internodal distance - The length of a portion of stem between two nodes, or leaf joints.
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Juvenile foliage - Young leaves of tree that produces one type of foliage in new or young growth and mature leaves of a distinctly different shape.
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Lanceolate - Shaped like the point of a lance; describes a leaf or pedal.
Larva - A mobile wingless grub that is the second stage in the life cycle of an insect.
Leader - Generally, the main shoot at the tip of a branch that extends the branch growth. In bonsai, this term usually indicates the uppermost continuation of the trunk.
Lifting - The process of taking a plant out of the ground; that is digging it up with its entire rootball.
Lignified - Describes a branch that is beginning to harden and turn brown, with eyes forming on it.
Loam - A soil consisting of a balanced mixture of clay, sand and decomposed organic matter. Typically, it has a loose, workable mixture.
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Marcescent - Withering but not falling off; marcescent leaves dry out in autumn, stay on the tree through winter and fall in the spring when new buds break.
Mist spraying - The practice of providing humid conditions for a plant using a mechanical sprayer that emits water as a spray of very fine water particles.
Mucro - A small, thick, pointed projection at the tip of leaf.
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Needle - A type of leaf that is narrow and relatively hard-textured.
New wood - A twig, branch, or stem originating in the current seasons growth.
Nitrogen - One of the essential elements of plant nutrition, identified by the chemical symbol N. It promotes above-ground growth, particularly in green tissue in stems and leaves.
Node - The points on a twig or branch where leaf buds and leaves appear. A node may be the source of a new shoot.
NPK - The chemical symbols for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K), an abbreviation that may be used in denoting the relative proportions of these - elements as ingredients of a fertilizer.
Nursery bed - Prepared ground in which seedlings or young plants are grown until they reach a stage when they can be lifted for bonsai use or other purposes.
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Obovate - Wider at the top than at the bottom.
Old wood - A twig, branch or stem that originated in the previous growing season or earlier.
Ornamental Tree - A general term referring to a tree bred or grown for the beauty of its foliage and flowers rather than its functional reasons.
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Peat - Partly decomposed organic matter, originating from the decomposition of vegetation in bogs, marshes or heathland. As an ingredient of potting soil, peat assists in moisture retention.
Perlite - A substance used to provide ventilation and moisture retention in a potting soil or other growing medium. It is a form of volcanic rock heat treated to create coarse lightweight granules.
Phosphorous - One of the essential elements of plant nutrition, identified by the chemical symbol P. It encourages root development and also ripening of fruit and seeds.
Pinching out or back - A technique used in growing or shaping a tree that consists of pulling off soft new shoots with finger and thumb.
Potassium - One of the essential elements of plant nutrition, identified by the chemical symbol It encourages strong new growth, development of flower buds and fruit formation. In plant cultivation, the term potash is commonly used for this element, meaning a substance that contains potassium; for example, as an ingredient in fertilizer.
Pot-bound - The condition of a pot-grown plant when the root growth has filled the pot to the extent of eliminating all air spaces.
Prostrate - The habit of a plant that tends to grow along the ground rather than upright.
Pruning - The practice of cutting or pinching back the shoots, leaves and stems of a tree or shrub to control the growth rate and shape of the plant.
Pubescent - Covered with very fine hairs.
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Raceme - An elongated flower head composed of individual flower stalks growing from a central stem.
Radicel - Small root branching off from main root.
Reflexed - Bent downwards and backwards, a description that may be used of some types of foliage and flowers pedals.
Repotting - The practice of taking a pot-grown plant out of its pot at regular intervals and replanting to refresh the soil and encourage renewed root growth.
Rootball - The mass of roots and soil seen when a plant is taken out of its pot or lifted from the ground.
Root pruning - The practice of cutting off the roots of a pot-grown plant to make room in the container for fresh soil and encourage new root growth.
Root stock - The root system and main stem used as the basis of a new plant in propagation by grafting.
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Samara - A dry, usually one seeded, winged fruit, like that of an Elm, Ash, or Maple etc.
Scion - A woody stem or small section of a tree or shrub used to propagate a new plant by grafting on a rootstock. The scion holds the characteristics of the new plant; - the root stock enables it to grow quickly.
Scorching - Damage caused to foliage by the action of strong sun or wind. Also, damage to roots that can be caused by an overdose of fertilizer.
Species - The unit of classification for a plant having particular characteristics. In the botanical name of the plant, the species is identified by the second word of the name: for example Acer palmatum.
Sphagnum moss - A type of moss native to damp locations such as bogs and marshes. It is highly water absorbent and has various uses in plant cultivation, particularly in air layering, or as binding for large wounds to keep them moist.
Spinescent - Bearing small, not very prickly, thorns.
Standard - A tree or shrub grown are trained with a single stem up to 6' below the branching head.
Stoma - A microscopically small opening in the epidermis of the green parts of a tree or other plant through which gasses pass out of and into the plant from the atmosphere.
Stratification - The process of preparing a tree seed for sowing by dispersing the seeds in sand and subjecting them to cold conditions, outdoors or artificially in a freezer or - refrigerator. This encourages germination.
Succulent - The description of a plant that has fleshy stems or leaves capable of retaining large amounts of moisture.
Subspecies - A unit of plant classification denoting a wild or naturally occurring variant of a species.
Suckering - The growth of a plant that produces new shoots at the base or below ground traveling out from the plant base.
Synonym - An alternative botanical name for a plant, usually an old or invalid classification.
Systemic - The description of an insecticide or fungicide that acts by entering the sap of the plant and counter-acting infestation or disease from within over a period of time.
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Tap Root - A long root that anchors a plant by growing vertically downward. The term is often used in referring to the first undivided root of a seedling.
Tender - The description of a plant that cannot withstand the frost and is likely to die if kept outdoors in cold conditions. Tenderness is relative to the local climate in which the plant is grown.
Topiary - The practice of pruning full size trees or shrubs into ornamental shapes.
Tufa Rock - A type of easily worked limestone useful for work plantings because it is very porous and retains moisture.
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Variety - A natural occurring variant of a species.
Viability - The ability of a seed to germinate.
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Winter kill - The death of a plant due to frost or freezing winds.
Woody - The description of a plant stem that has hardened and will not die off in winter conditions or during the plants dormancy.
Wound sealant - A compound formulated to seal a cut in a branch or trunk, preventing sap bleeding and moisture loss, and promote healing.
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Yatsubusa - A particular type of dwarf form. Internodal distances are shorter than commonly found on a dwarf, and nodes have more buds than usual, resulting in denser growth.
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