AskDefine | Define tendril

Dictionary Definition

tendril n : slender stemlike structure by which some twining plants attach themselves to an object for support

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈten.drəl/, /"tEn.dr@l/


  1. A thin, spirally coiling stem that attaches a plant to its support.
  2. A hair-like tentacle.


a thin, spirally coiling stem
a hair-like tentacle

Extensive Definition

distinguish Tendrils In botany, a tendril is a specialized stem, leaf or petiole with a threadlike shape that is used by climbing plants for support and attachment, generally by twining around whatever it touches.


The earliest and most comprehensive study of tendrils was Charles Darwin's monograph On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, which was originally published in 1865. This work also coined the term circumnutation to describe the motion of growing stems and tendrils seeking supports.

Biology of tendrils

In the garden pea, it is only the terminal leaflets that are modified to become tendrils. In other plants such as the yellow vetch (Lathyrus aphaca) the whole leaf is modified to become tendrils while the stipules become enlarged and carry out photosynthesis. Still others use the rachis of a compound leaf as a tendril, such as members of the genus Clematis.
The specialised pitcher traps of Nepenthes plants form on the end of tendrils. The tendrils of aerial pitchers are usually coiled in the middle. If the tendril comes into contact with an object for long enough it will usually curl around it, forming a strong anchor point for the pitcher. In this way, the tendrils help to support the growing stem of the plant.
Tendril can also be used to describe a wisp of hair or indeed anything that resembles the tendrils of plants.


tendril in Arabic: المعلاق
tendril in German: Ranke
tendril in Spanish: Zarcillo
tendril in Esperanto: Ĉiro
tendril in French: Vrille (botanique)
tendril in Italian: Viticcio
tendril in Dutch: Rank
tendril in Portuguese: Gavinha
tendril in Volapük: Rank

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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