Evergreen?

Discussion in 'Plants: Science and Cultivation' started by Luke Harding, Jan 26, 2010.

  1. Luke Harding

    Luke Harding Active Member

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    I've been pondering this for a while; If a plant which sheds its leaves perennially is known as 'deciduous', is there a more technical term than 'evergreen' for a plant which does not?
    From a very young age I could guess/work out that an 'evergreen' was 'green' all the time. However, the term 'deciduous' foxed me until i made it to secondary education.
    Many people use the term evergreen to describe conifers but not all conifers are evergreen. Likewise, evergreens are not all conifers.
    Did botanists simply run out of science and technical words in the past? Surely there must be something more technical than 'evergreen'?
    Then again, perhaps I am wrong.....
    Please put me out of my misery!
     
  2. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Personally, and this is largely because I live in a tropical country, I refer to the deciduous trees as Broadleaf Deciduous and Deciduous Conifers, and everything else is just "Trees." I haven't found a suitable term other than evergreen for them, but I would tend to make the distinction between broadleaves and conifers.
     
  3. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    How about sempervirens, as in Sequoia sempervirens?

    From Latin semper, always, and virens, green.
     
  4. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Sempervirens is just a Latin translation of evergreen. A Google search turned up no useful synonyms for evergreen; so, if there is one, it must be pretty obscure. Anyway, what's wrong with using a simple, obvious word like evergreen in scientific publications. It's a refreshing change from the long-winded, technical terms that scientists usually foist on their readers.
     
  5. Luke Harding

    Luke Harding Active Member

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    This is a very fair point. There is nothing wrong with the word 'evergreen'. It conveys all the information needed.
    However, 'sempervirens' may have originated earlier in language. I shan't be using it in the future though!
    I just find it interesting that every other element of Botany and Horticulture has been scientifically titled, compared with a 'basic' word like evergreen.
    Thanks for your input
    :0)
     
  6. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    Unless the tree is one of several Cryptomeria, which turn reddish or purple in the winter.

    I suppose our challenges are that classifications are almost all man-made and man-grouped.
     
  7. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi,

    just a few thoughts.

    1. Perhaps one should regard the 'normal' condition of plants as being evergreen. I think deciduous plants might be in the minority. My argument then would be that you do not need a special term for what is normal (evergreen) but do need a 'special' term for the exceptions - hence deciduous.

    2.Botanists are obviously all very smart and sensible people and so felt no need to invent a superfluous term when evergreen is perfectly accurate and self explanatory......!!?

    3. I can imagine that early botanical writing would use latin and therefore Michael's sempervirens would be the origin of evergreen. In Portuguese, the common word for evergreen is 'sempre-verde' - which translates as evergreen! Perhaps if we check we will find the same situation in all european languages..which would suggest a common root in latin? In botanical works in Portuguese, however, they use the word 'perenefolia' (there is an acute accent over the letter o) for evergreen - but really this would translate as perennially leaved (not quite the same). Perhaps we should be happy with "perennifoliate" as a suitable technical looking equivalent in English. I googled this and I couldn't believe it -there it is - perennifoliate !! But very few google hits and they all seem to have their origin in Spanish/ Portuguese documents/ work...so perhaps not a very robust provenance for usage in English.



    4. One problem of course is that we are determined to shoe-horn all plants into one or other category. Perhaps botanists have always had a rather more subtle approach and are not too interested in a crude distinction. They divide the deciduous condition into subcategories.. brevi-deciduous..semi-deciduous...marcescente and I have come across the term caducifoliate which is often used as an alternative to deciduous, but I think is used sometimes in a slightly different sense (to mean plants which lose ther leaves after a very short time).

    Perennifoliate is not really a good equivalent term for evergreen as not all evergreen plants have long-lived leaves - most do - many have leaves which have a life measured in years rather than weeks - but some don't.

    A lot of botanical work now looks at the longevity of leaves and the synchronicity of bud-burst and leaf-fall. If bud-burst is tightly synchronised in a plant and leaf fall similarly synchronised, then you will have a deciduous plant, with no leaves as some time in its cycle. If both processes are asynchronous then you have an evergreen plant- there will always be some leaves. But there will be a continuum of conditions between these two extremes - so there will be degrees of "deciduousness". Strictly speaking probably no species is absolutely evergreen. Sometime in its history at least one individual of that species by pure chance will have lost all its leaves at the same time.

    Enough ramblings....time for dinner !

    Ciao
    Brian
     
  8. doobie

    doobie Member

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    Or you could call them "persistent leaf" plants or trees.
     
  9. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    "there will always be some leaves. But there will be a continuum of conditions between these two extremes - so there will be degrees of "deciduousness". Strictly speaking probably no species is absolutely evergreen."

    I think this is where the Eucalypts are. Certain time of the year they really drop their canopy but are still evergreen. The most dramatic time is after a long hot spell and the cool change comes. Leaves drop like rain from 60 to 80 ft up along with strings of bark in some species.

    Liz
     
  10. Luke Harding

    Luke Harding Active Member

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    Having thought long and hard about which plants are completely evergreen, the only family of plants I can think of which don't shed leaves are in the Cacti family.....or atleast as far as I'm aware.
    Some Pinus species retain leaves/needles for up to 20 years but even they are replaced eventually.
    I'm liking the term 'Perennifoliate' but I can't see it catching on. You'd still end up having to use the term 'evergreen' to explain what it meant.
     
  11. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Cactus leaves are caducous (even shorter-lived than deciduous, often only a few days, to a few weeks), and also (apart from Pereskia) tiny - the green is stems of course.

    Leaf retention in Pinus longaeva is up to 45 years (Ewers, F. W. & Schmid, R., 1981. Longevity of needle fascicles of Pinus longaeva (Bristlecone Pine) and other North American pines. Oecologia 51: 107-115.).
     
  12. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Welwitschia never sheds its leaves.
     
  13. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Eric,

    Yes - of course- should have thought of it - at least one true evergreen - Welwitschia...but perhaps the only one ??

    brian
     
  14. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    But any one part of its leaves are only photosynthetic for 20-30 years; the apical end gradually dies off as new leaf material is produced at the base.
     
  15. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    So basically, there really isn't any need for a term like "evergreen" to mean "the opposite of deciduous" - all plants are, to a certain level, deciduous. Some of them just hang on to their leaves for longer than others.

    I'd see using "evergreen" more as a descriptor for plants that are never naked - ie there are always some leaves on them, although they may shed the old ones periodically. Hence, most of the tropical broadleaves fall into the evergreen category simply because they don't drop all of their leaves all at once.
     
  16. GreenLarry

    GreenLarry Active Member 10 Years

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    How about Wintergreen or sub-verdant? i seem to remember a technical term for leaf loss, one could contextualise it to represent seasonal leaf loss.
     
  17. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Something that's wintergreen could be leafless in summer - applies to some desert trees/shrubs, which only have leaves in the (relatively) cooler months and shed them when things get hot.
     

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