Australian Plants online
Index   Back Issues   ANPSA Home

What do Botanists Mean by the Term 'Secund'?

Peter Olde

Botanical terminology can often confuse and frighten beginners and experienced botanists alike. One of the problems is that some terms are only found to describe aspects of a plant in a particular group or family. So it is difficult to get your head around terms that are unfamiliar. Why do botanists do this, or even invent new words we cannot understand. The main reason is that a botanical term is precise and alludes to some feature that can only be otherwise described using a long phrase. Imagine how long a botanical description would be if botanists had to use phrases to describe botanical features. You would need several pages in some cases and it could get very repetitive as well. One of the botanical terms used in Grevillea is the word 'secund'.

   Grevillea rigida
   Grevillea rigida

I was surprised recently when a very senior botanist at the herbarium did not know the meaning of this word. I realised then that it is rarely used in the description of other genera because it does not occur there. Only in a few genera of the Proteaceae does the term become relevant. What does it mean then?

A floral or foliar organ is termed secund when all of its parts are turned to one side. A branchlet is secund when all its leaves are found on one side and not on both. You might describe a leaf as secund when the lamina on either side of the rachis is oriented above or below the axis (V-shaped). A conflorescence is secund when all the flowers are on one side of the axis, toothbrush inflorescences for example - like those in Grevillea rigida.

So now you know.

From the newsletter of ASGAP's Grevillea Study Group, October 2006.

Index   Back Issues   ANPSA Home

Australian Plants online - 2006
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants