PSWCD director offers tree terminology lesson

By BJ Price - Preble Soil & Water Conservation District

PREBLE COUNTY — Spring will be here soon, and the Preble Soil and Water Conservation District is now taking orders for our annual Plant Sale. When talking trees and plants, we have come to realize that some of the terms we use in describing the plant world can be unclear at best and confusing at worst. The following is our attempt to put in simple terms some of the words you may come across while looking up descriptions of our plant sale offerings.

Bare root: A plant that is removed from the soil in a dormant state and is offered for sale with its roots exposed, rather than planted in a container with soil. Bare root plants should be kept cool and the roots should be kept moist while they are exposed. They can be planted in late winter or early spring as soon as the ground is thawed. As the weather warms up, the bare-root seedling will break dormancy at the appropriate time and can quickly acclimate to new soil conditions.

Crown: The part of a root system from which a stem arises, usually located at or around the soil level and can be vaguely or clearly apparent. The root crown area usually appears swollen, tapered, constricted or very thin, or may be a combination of these. It is the point where the energy and nutrients from the roots are transferred to the stems. The asparagus crowns we sell include everything from the crown down to the roots.

Dioecious: Having the male and female reproductive organs on separate plants. Whereas many plant species have male and female reproductive organs in the same flower on the same plant or in separate structures on the same plant, dioecious species have separate boy trees and girl trees. In Latin, dioecious means “two houses”. Some better-known examples of dioecious trees would be Osage Orange (or Hedge trees), Mulberry, Persimmon, Sassafras (usually), Ginkgo, Ash (usually), and Cottonwood. Knowing that a species is dioecious would explain why some individual plants of that species will never bear fruit, simply because some of the trees are boys and some of them are girls. When growing dioecious plants, remember to plant several of the same species to ensure pollination.

Fruit: The seed-bearing structure in flowering plants. When we think of a fruit, typically an edible grocery-store commodity comes to mind, but fruits come in many forms besides your standard apples and oranges. Think of samaras, or helicopters, on ash and maples trees, not to mention cones, acorns, drupes, berries, and nuts. Yep, all fruits of one sort or another. Think about it, all of these fruits bear a seed or seeds which could germinate to grow a new plant.

Shrub: A woody plant that is smaller than a tree, usually having several main stems rather than a single trunk; typically less than 25 feet tall. Through pruning, some shrubs can be trained to take on a more of a tree-like shape.

Tree: A woody plant having one erect perennial stem (trunk) at least 3 inches in diameter at a point 4 1/2 feet above the ground, a definitely formed crown of foliage, and a mature height of at least 13 feet.

Sucker: A secondary shoot produced from the base or roots of a woody plant. Many shrubs spread to form a thicket by way of suckers.

Now that you have a better understanding of the terminology, feel confident in your decision to branch out and plant new species in your yard or woodlot this year! For more information, you may contact the Preble Soil and Water Conservation District at 937-456-5159, or check out the tree order form on our website at

By BJ Price

Preble Soil & Water Conservation District