What is the difference between scale and cataphyll in botany - aren't these the same type of organ? E.g. do cycad cones have scales or cataphylls? Pine cones have scales, I understand the compound nature of pine cones - does that make them scales? On fern petioles/stipes there are often scale-like organs I've seen called scales (though they are not very scale-like).

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! What research have you done before asking it here? $\endgroup$ – another 'Homo sapien' Jun 22 '17 at 10:23

According to "Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary" (Harris & Harris, 2001):


Any thin, flat, scarious structure

  • Note: "Scarious" = Thin, dry, and membranous in texture; not green


Brown or colorless scale-like structures believed to be modified leaves

So "scale" is going to be used more broadly, while a "cataphyll" (though scale-like) is more specifically always some type of modified leaf.

According to Wikipedia:

Cataphylls include bracts, bracteoles, and bud scales, as well as any small leaves that resemble scales, which are known as scale leaves.

You can find good illustrations of cataphyll examples here.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I understand cataphylls a bit better. With scales, how does this definition fit in with scales on conifer cones? And do cycad cones have scales or are they just called sporophylls? I see in "Pterophytes and Gymnosperms" (Kramer and Green, 1990) they say cycads have 'scale-like sporophylls'. Why are they scale-like and not just scales? $\endgroup$ – Phillippe Poisson Jun 24 '17 at 0:53

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