Definition - What does Deciduous mean?

Deciduous is the term that describes trees, bushes, vines and other plants that shed their leaves annually. It comes from the Latin term deciduus, meaning “tending to fall or falling”. Grapevines are deciduous plants as are most trees with the exception of pine species, which are considered coniferous (trees with needles that do not shed). Another term for conifers is "evergreen", however, not all evergreens are conifers.

The word deciduous first appeared between 1650 and 1660.

WineFrog explains Deciduous

Deciduous plants shed all leaves annually at the end of the growing season and then have a dormant period without leaves. These plants have four distinct phases:

  1. Spring, when buds appear and the leaves start to grow. The vines are coming out of hibernation.
  2. Summer, when the leaves are soaking up the sunlight, converting it to food and strengthening the vines.
  3. Autumn, when the berries are ripening, the leaves start turning red, orange and yellow (Fall colors). The leaves change in the autumn to prepare the vine for hibernation.
  4. Winter, when the leaves have fallen and the vines are in hibernation.

Deciduous has a few alternate meanings:

  • Not permanent and transitory
  • Falling off or shedding at a certain stage of growth (as in an animal shedding its horns)
  • Relating to the primary teeth
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