Definitions

amaryllis-family

Bulb

[buhlb]

A bulb is an underground vertical shoot that has modified leaves (or thickened leaf bases) that are used as food storage organs by a dormant plant.

A bulb's leaf bases generally do not support leaves, but contain food reserves to enable the plant to survive adverse conditions. The leaf bases may resemble scales, or they may overlap and surround the center of the bulb as with the onion. A modified stem forms the base of the bulb, and plant growth occurs from this basal plate. Roots emerge from the underside of the base, and new stems and leaves from the upper side.

Other types of storage organs (such as corms, rhizomes, and tubers) are sometimes erroneously referred to as bulbs. The correct term for plants that form underground storage organs, including bulbs as well as tubers and corms, is geophyte. Some epiphytic orchids (family Orchidaceae) form above-ground storage organs called pseudobulbs, that superficially resemble bulbs.

Plants that form true bulbs are all monocotyledons, and include:

Bulbil

Some lilies form small bulbs, called bulbils in their leaf axils. Several members of the onion family, Alliaceae, including Allium sativum (garlic), form bulbils in their flower heads, sometimes as the flowers fade, or even instead of the flowers. The so-called Tree onion (Allium cepa var. proliferum) forms small onions which are large enough for pickling.

Some ferns, such as Hen and Chicken Fern grow offshoots on top of their fronds, which are also referred to as bulbils.

References

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