Definitions

bulb

bulb

[buhlb]
bulb, thickened, fleshy plant bud, usually formed under the surface of the soil, which carries the plant over from one blooming season to another. It may have many fleshy layers (as in the onion and hyacinth) or thin dry scales (as in some lilies)—both of which are highly modified leaves. Many popular outdoor and house plants, such as the tulip and the narcissus, are grown from bulbs, often out of their usual flowering season by forcing (i.e., by exposing them to a cold treatment). Not true bulbs, but often so called, are the corm of the crocus and the gladiolus, the tuber of the dahlia and the potato, and the rhizome of certain irises. All such organs are specialized subterranean stems serving for food and water storage and asexual reproduction.

See J. E. Bryan, Bulbs (1989).

In botany, the resting stage of certain seed plants, particularly perennial monocotyledons (see cotyledon), consisting of a relatively large, usually globe-shaped, underground bud with membranous or fleshy overlapping leaves arising from a short stem. The fleshy leaves function as food reserves that enable a plant to lie dormant when water is unavailable (during winter or drought) and to resume active growth when favourable conditions again prevail. There are two main types of bulbs. One, typified by the onion, has a thin papery covering protecting its fleshy leaves. The other, the scaly bulb, as seen in true lilies, has naked storage leaves, with no papery covering, making the bulb appear to consist of angular scales. Bulbs enable many common ornamentals, such as the narcissus, tulip, and hyacinth, to flower rapidly in early spring when growing conditions are favourable. Other bulb-producing plants bloom in the summer (e.g., lilies) or fall (e.g., the autumn crocus). The solid corms of the crocus and gladiolus and the elongated rhizomes of some irises are not bulbs.

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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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