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Top - Introduction - Etymology - List of botanical terms ending in -phyte
Other terms ending in -phyte - See also - References


The suffix -phyte is used primarily as a tool in botany to form words used for categorizing plants based on their evolutionary origin, life-history, growth-form or ecological preferences; the main purpose of this article is to provide a single point of reference for these terms. The suffix has been used in particular to form names of subdivisions of the plants and algae and to name the life-form groupings of the Raunkiær system (Raunkiær 1934).

Some terms are also used (with a corresponding meaning) in mycology or zoology; these are indicated.

The suffix has also been used in medicine and other contexts; see the section Other terms ending in -phyte at the end of the article.


Such words are formed from Greek or Latin roots with the terminal -phyte ("_____-phyte" basically means "_____ plant".)

List of botanical terms ending in -phyte[edit]

For ease of use, dummy entries for all other "phytes" are included in this list, but definitions are in the "other -phytes" section at the end of this article


  • Acidophyte is a term used in conjunction with the use of lichens to monitor air pollution (see van Herk 1999) TBC
  • An acrophyte is an alpine plant (synonym coryphophyte)
  • An actophyte is a plant found growing on rocky shorelines
  • An aerophyte is a plant which obtains all of its nourishment from the air (also called an airplant)
  • An aigiaphyte is a plant found growing on beaches or strandlines
  • An aithalophyte is a plant found growing in evergreen thickets
  • An aletophyte is a ruderal or wayside plant (synonym chomaphyte)
  • An amathophyte is a plant found growing on sand-plains
  • An anecophyte is a plant found only in human-created habitats throughout its range - known colloquially as "homeless plants" - many arable weeds fall into this category (see Zohary 1962)
  • An anemophyte is a "blow-out" plant i.e. a plant found growing in hollows created by wind in sand-dunes
  • For antophyte, see Anthophyte above
  • An apophyte is a native plant that has invaded abandoned fields
  • The term archaeophyte is defined as a plant which was introduced to an area by humans (or arrived naturally, but from an area in which it was present as a human introduction) and became naturalised before AD 1500 (cf. neophyte).
  • An autophyte is a plant capable of synthesizing its own food from simple organic substances (cf. saprophyte)


  • A bacillariophyte is a member of the diatoms
  • A bathyphyte is a plant found typically or exclusively in lowlands
  • A benthophyte is a plant living at the bottom of a body of water or in the bed of a river
  • A benthopheustophyte is any large plant resting freely on the floor of a lake but capable of drifting slowly with the lake's currents
  • A biophyte is a plant which consumes other living organisms


  • Carophyte is a variant of or spelling error for "charophyte" below.
  • A chamaephyte is a low-growing perennial plant whose living structures are therefore visible all year round and whose dormant overwintering buds are borne at or just above the surface of the ground
  • A chamerophyte is a herbaceous or woody plant which has its overwintering buds at or just above the soil surface
  • A chasmophyte is a plant tolerant of or adapted to growing on vertical cliff faces
  • A cormophyte is a land plant belonging to the former botanical division Cormophyta, having a stem and root system
  1. a plant that grows on ice or snow (see cryophyte).
  2. a plant of the genus Cryophytum
  • A cryptophyte is a plant in which the buds are covered with soil or water (geophytes, helophytes and hydrophytes are all classes of cryptophyte). Cryptophyte also refers to the cryptomonads, a group of single-celled algae
  • A cuprophyte is a plant which is adapted to living in, or tolerant of, soils with high copper levels
  • A cyanophyte is an older name for a member of the cyanobacteria
  • A cycadophyte is a cycad


  • A dinophyte or pyrrhophyte is a member of the dinoflagellates, a group of unicellular algae
  • A dissophyte - not to be confused with dyssophyte (q.v.) - is a plant whose shoots are xerophytic (q.v.), but whose roots are mesophytic (q.v.)
  • A dyssophyte - not to be confused with dissophyte (q.v.) - is a plant which can behave either as a hydrophyte (q.v.) or an epiphyte (q.v.)


  • The term ectophyte has two similar meanings (but see also Other terms ending in -phyte below):
    • it describes the parts of a parasitic plant (e.g. stem, leaves, flowers) that occur outside the host plant (c.f. endophyte)
    • it refers to a parasitic plant which lives solely on the surface of its host, without penetrating its tissue
  • An edaphophyte is a plant with its roots in soil and its shoots in the air
  • An embryophyte is a complex multicellular plant, as opposed to algae
  • An emophyte is a plant which is completely submerged, and has no functional stomata
  • An endophyte (c.f. ectophyte) is a parasitic or symbiotic organism (plant, animal or fungus) which lives entirely within its host plant, for at least part of its lifecycle
  • An entomophyte is a plant living within or on the body of an insect (synonym entophyte)
  • For entophyte, see entomophyte above
  • An eophyte is a fossil plant which is found in the lowest beds of the Silurian age
  • An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon or attached to another living plant
  • An ergasiophyte is a foreign cultivated plant deliberately introduced
  • A euglenophyte is a member of the euglenids, a group of single-celled algae
  • A europhyte is a plant which grows in leaf mould

F, G[edit]

  • A ginkgophyte is a Ginkgo tree, or one of its extinct relatives
  • Glaucophytes or glaucocystophytes are a small group of single-celled algae
  • A glycophyte is a plant adapted to nonsaline soil
  • A gypsophyte is a plant adapted to chalk or limestone


  • A halophyte is a plant which is tolerant of saline conditions, or adapted to a saline soil or soil influenced by salt water
  • Haptophytes or prymnesiophytes are a group of single-celled algae
  • A heliophyte is a plant which thrives in or tolerates full sunlight (cf. Ombrophyte, Sciophyte/Skiophyte)
  • A helophyte is a marsh plant (synonymous with limnodophyte)
  • Hemerophyte is a generic term for a plant introduced by humans
  • A hemicryptophyte is a herbaceous plant which has its wintering buds at or just above the soil surface
  • A heterophyte is a generic term for a plant which is dependent on another for its nutrition (cf autophyte)
  • A hydrogeophyte is a geophyte (q.v.) which grows in aquatic environments (e.g. water lilies)
  • The term hydrophyte has two meanings:
    • a free-floating water plant
    • a plant adapted to high moisture levels (c.f. mesophyte, xerophyte)
  • A hygrophyte is a plant which thrives in very wet soil and/or is more or less restricted to moist sites

I, J[edit]


  • A kenapophyte is a plant which has colonised cleared land


  • A leimonapophyte is a plant which has been introduced into grassland
  • Limnodophyte is a term for a marsh plant (synonymous with helophyte)
  • Limnophyte is a term for a plant which grows in or on mud
  • A lithophyte is a plant growing on rock or on rocky soil
  • For lycopodiophyte, see lycophyte above


  • A macrophyte is a plant large enough to be seen with the naked eye, as distinct from the many microscopic algae
  • A magnoliophyte is a member of the Magnoliophyta (also known as angiosperms - the flowering plants)
  • Megaphyte is term used to refer to plants which typically have unbranched stems or trunks, which bear a crown of very large leaves, and often also possess a massive inflorescence.
  • A mesohydrophyte is a plant whose tolerance to moisture is intermediate between that of a mesophyte (q.v.) and a hydrophyte (q.v.)
  • A mesophyte is a plant adapted to medium moisture levels (c.f. hydrophyte, xerophyte)
  • A mesoxerophyte is a plant whose tolerance to moisture is intermediate between that of a mesophyte (q.v.) and a xerophyte (q.v.)
  • A metallophyte is a plant which is tolerant of substrates with a high metal content; metallophytes are divided into obligate metallophytes (which require such a substrate) and pseudometallophytes (q.v.)
  • A microphyte is a microscopic, usually unicellular, plant
  • Used as an adjective monophyte means "composed of a single plant species"
  • A mycoheterophyte is a plant which obtains its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungus, which is often in turn parasitic on a photosynthetic plant (mycoheterophytes are thus indirectly parasitic on other plants; they are also known as epiparasites)
  • A myrmecophyte is a plant that lives in association with a colony of ants and possesses specialized organs in which the ants live.



  1. a plant which thrives in or tolerates shade (cf. heliophyte)
  2. a plant capable of withstanding a lot of rain
  • An orophyte is a plant inhabiting hills and mountains
  • An oxyphyte is a plant growing in soil which lacks oxygen


  • A phaeophyte or fucophyte is a member of the brown algae
  • A phanerophyte is a tall-growing plant with living structures visible all year
  • A phreatophyte is a deep-rooted plant that obtains water from a permanent ground supply or from the water table (or soil just above it)
  • A plotophyte is a floating plant, with stomata on its upper leaf surface only
  • A pseudometallophyte is a plant which can tolerate (but does not require) a substrate with a high metal content (c. f. metallophyte)
  • A pyrophyte is a woody plant which has unusual resistance to fire e.g. because of exceptionally thick bark, or a competitive advantage over other plants following a fire e.g. because fire acts as a catalyst to fertile culm production (but see also Other terms ending in -phyte below)

Q, R[edit]


  • A saprophyte is an organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that grows on and derives its nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter.
  • A sciophyte (also spelt 'skiophyte') is a plant which thrives in or tolerates shade (synonymous with ombrophyte, cf. heliophyte)
  • For skiophyte, see sciophyte above
  • A spiladophyte is a plant which is adapted to growing in, or is tolerant of, clay


  • Thallophyte is a term for a member of the Thallophyta, a former subdivision of the plant kingdom used to group relatively simple plants with undifferentiated tissue.
  • A therophyte is a plant which survives between favourable seasons in the form of a seed; the therophytes form one of the categories of the Raunkiær system.
  • Tracheophyte is a term which is synonymous with vascular plant (from the former botanical division Tracheophyta)
  • A tropophyte is a plant adapted to climatic conditions in which periods of heavy rainfall alternate with periods of drought

U, V, W[edit]

  • Ultraphyte is a fictional UV-photosynthetic creature from outer space, in the novel The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski.

X, Y[edit]

  • A xerophyte is a plant adapted to survive in very dry situations (c.f. hydrophyte, mesophyte)


  • A zyophyte Is any plant of a proposed class or grand division (Zygophytes, Zygophyta, or Zygosporeae), in which reproduction consists in the union of two similar cells. Cf. Oophyte.

Other terms ending in -phyte[edit]

Some zoological -phytes[edit]

  • An ectophyte is an animal which is phytophagous but which feeds only on the surface of plants, and does not penetrate their tissue
  • An endophyte is an animal that lives within a plant for at least part of its life without causing apparent disease.
  • Zoophyte is a term which refers to any of various invertebrate animals resembling a plant, such as a sea anemone or coral or sponge (and also an Australian band - see Zoophyte)

Medical "-phytes"[edit]

  • In addition to its use as a botanical term (see above), arthrophyte is a term used for an abnormal growth in a joint cavity
  • A chondrophyte is an abnormal cartilaginous mass that develops at the articular surface of a bone
  • An osteophyte is an abnormal bony projection which forms on a joint (often due to arthritis)

Proper names ending in -phyte[edit]

  • Aquaphyte is the newsletter of the Center for Aquatic Plants and the Aquatic Plant Information Retrieval System (APIRS) of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).

Miscellaneous other -phytes[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Van Herk, C.M., (1999) Mapping of Ammonia Pollution with Epiphytic Lichens in the Netherlands Lichenologist 31 (1) 9-20.
  • Raunkiær, Christen C. (1934) The Life Forms of Plants and Statistical Plant Geography, published by Oxford University Press.
  • Zohary, M. (1962) Plant life of Palestine, published by Ronald Press Co.

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