Glossary of Conservation Landscaping Terms

(Excerpted from Ecoscaping Back to the Future…Restoring Chesapeake Landscapes, by Zora Lathan and Thistle A. Cone.)

Annual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.

Backyard composting: Diversion of organic food waste and yard trimmings from the municipal waste stream by composting them in one’s yard through controlled decomposition of organic matter by bacteria and fungi into a humus-like product.

Berm: A mound of soil, stone, etc. created to provide functional and/or ornamental benefits.

Best management practices (BMPs): Methods that have been determined to be the most effective, practical means of preventing or reducing pollution from non-point sources.

Biodiversity: A large number and wide range of species of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms. Ecologically, wide biodiversity is conducive to the development of all species.

Buffer: A naturally vegetated area established or maintained to cushion and protect aquatic, wetland, shoreline, and terrestrial environments from man-made disturbances.

Composites: Plants in the family compositae, which typically produce daisy-like flower heads containing lots seeds.

Conifer: A plant that bears either needlelike or scale-like foliage. Cones are the most common reproductive structure.

Cultivar (cv.): A patented plant that can be produced only by asexual means (cuttings, grafting, etc.). In order to maintain the biodiversity of native plants, it is important to try to plant “species” plants rather than cultivars.

Deadheading: The removal of some types of flower heads to force them to bloom again.

Deciduous: Describes a plant which sheds or loses its foliage at the end of the growing season.

Ecology: The science of the relationships between organisms and their environment.

Ecoscaping: A term for conservation landscaping. Garden and landscape techniques which improve air, land, and water quality and protect or increase wildlife habitat. Other benefits include reduced maintenance time and costs, as well as enhanced beauty and “sense of place.”

Ecosystem: A more or less self-contained biological community together with the physical environment in which the community’s organisms occur.

Estuary: A partially restricted body of water where the flow of freshwater mixes with saltier water transported, by tide, from the ocean. Estuaries are the most productive water bodies in the world.

Evergreen: A plant that holds its foliage through the dormant season. The foliage may be needlelike (pines, spruces), scale-like (arborvitae, junipers), or broadleaf (azaleas, rhododendrons).

Excess stormwater runoff: Any increase in stormwater resulting from: anincrease in the imperviousness of a site, including all additions to buildings, roads, and parking lots; changes in permeability caused by compaction during construction or modifications in contours, including the filling or drainage of small depression areas; the alteration of drainageways, or regrading of slopes; the destruction of forest; or the installation of collection systems to intercept street flows or to replace swales or other drainage-ways.

Fauna: The total animal population that inhabits an area.

Flora: The total vegetation assemblage that inhabits an area.

Forest: A biological community dominated by trees and other woody plants.

Habit: The shape and form of a plant.

Habitat: The place where a population (e.g. human, animal, plant, microorganism) lives and its surroundings, both living and non-living.

Hedgerow: A group or row of shrubs and trees separating two grassy or lower growing areas. It can act as a windbreak and provide habitat for small

Herbaceous: Refers to plants that flourish during the growing season but die back to the ground and over-winter in some underground structure such as bulbs or roots.

Impervious surface: An area covered with solid material or that is compacted to the point where water cannot infiltrate underlying soils (e.g. parking lots, roads, houses, patios, swimming pools, tennis courts, etc.). Stormwater runoff velocity and volume can increase in areas covered by impervious surfaces.

Invasive plant: A plant which tends to escape containment and rapidly spread in an area. These plants frequently have few natural controls in the area in which they have become invasive. Native plants are capable of escaping containment and spreading rapidly, so the word “invasive” is usually reserved for alien species, meaning from another part of the country or the world.

Mulch: Organic by-products, such as wood chips, bark or leaves, or even grass clippings that are spread upon beds or gardens to reduce weeds and conserve moisture. Their breakdown can improve the organic component of the soil.

Native plant: A plant historically present in a particular region. Native is usually defined as having been found indigenous to the local area before colonists began to arrive with plant materials from elsewhere. In our case, native plants would ideally be from the Chesapeake Bay watershed and from the coastal, piedmont, or mountain region as fits your site location.

Non-point sources: Diffuse pollution sources (i.e. without a single point of origin or not introduced into a receiving stream from a specific outlet). The pollutants are generally carried off the land by storm water. Common non-point sources are agriculture, forestry, urban, mining, construction, dams, channels, land disposal, saltwater intrusion, and city streets.

Nutrient: Any substance assimilated by living things that promotes growth. The term is generally applied to nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater, but is also applied to other essential and trace elements.

Nutrient pollution: Contamination of water resources by excessive inputs of nutrients. In surface waters, excess algal production is a major concern.

Perennial: A plant that lives three or more years.

Permeable surfaces: Areas characterized by materials that allow stormwater to infiltrate the underlying soils (e.g., soil covered by vegetated areas).

Pesticides: Chemical agents used to destroy pests.

Pine: A conifer that bears its needles in clusters of two, three, or five. The term pine is often misused to describe any large conifer.

Pollutant: A waste material that contaminates air, soil, or water. Sediment, nutrients, and toxic chemicals are considered the major groups of pollutants contributing to the deterioration of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Rain garden: Low-lying saucer-shaped garden (as opposed to bowl shape) that has absorbent soils which temporarily collects stormwater runoff, usually from a roof, pavement, or other impervious surface, and allows it to slowly percolate into the soil. This provides flood control, groundwater recharge, and water-cooling benefits, while the plants, soils, and associated microorganisms remove many types of pollutants—such as pesticides, oils, metals, and other contaminants—from stormwater runoff.

Restoration of habitat: The process of returning habitat to a close approximation of its historic, natural condition. This can include using nativeplants in conditions that might be found in nature, in order to provide wildlife with their essential needs.

Riparian: Related to the banks of a river or stream.

Shrub: A plant that grows less than 20 feet high and may have one or many trunks or stems protruding from the ground.

Species: The basic scientific name for plants and animals. A species has two names, the genus, whose first letter is capitalized; and the species name, which describes some physical feature or geographic location or honors some prominent plant scientist. Red Maple has the scientific name Acer rubrum.

Specimen or feature plant: A plant that possesses some asset (form, foliage effects, bark interest, or flower display) that makes it stand out from the rest in the landscape. The most successful specimen plant will have something to offer all four seasons of the year.

Stewardship: The concept of land as a resource, our responsibility to wisely manage that resource, and our responsibility to future generations for the condition of that resource when we leave it.

Tributary: A river or stream that connects to a larger body of water.

Understory: Shade-tolerant plants that can grow beneath the arching, branched canopy of woodland shade trees.

Variety: A term often used where the term cultivar should be employed. Botanically a variety is a population within a species that has some consistent heritable feature that distinguishes it from the general species population. If this feature is considered to be desirable and the plant can be successfully propagated asexually, a member of a variety may become the source of a cultivar.

Watershed: The land area that drains into a body of water. Any rain or snow which falls on the watershed eventually makes it into that body of water. A synonym is drainage basin. The watershed of the Chesapeake Bay encompasses some 16 million acres.

Weed: A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.

Wildlife corridors: Contiguous vegetated areas containing trees and shrubs which provide corridors in which wildlife can safely travel to meet their needs.

Wildlife habitat: Those plant communities and physiographic features that provide food, water, and cover, nesting and foraging or feeding conditions necessary to maintain populations of animals.

Xeriscaping: Landscaping with drought-tolerant plants to conserve water in dry conditions.