biennial, plant requiring two years to complete its life cycle, as distinguished from an annual or a perennial. In the first year a biennial usually produces a rosette of leaves (e.g., the cabbage) and a fleshy root, which acts as a food reserve over the winter. During the second year the plant produces flowers and seeds and, having exhausted its food reserve, then dies. Short-lived perennials (e.g., the hollyhock) are often treated as biennials. Some biennials will, like annuals, bloom in the same season if sown early; others reseed themselves or produce offsets, thus perpetuating the plant indefinitely so that it becomes essentially a perennial. There are very few true biennials. Many are crop plants, such as carrots and parsnips, which are harvested for their succulent roots at the end of their first growing season.
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