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Re: What's a Cataphyll?

  • Subject: Re: What's a Cataphyll?
  • From: <ju-bo@msn.com>
  • Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 21:47:03 +0000


Sent: 	Mon 11/26/07 8:43 PM
Reply-to: 	Discussion of aroids (aroid-l@gizmoworks.com)
To: 	Discussion of aroids (aroid-l@gizmoworks.com)
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Dear Ted,

I`ll give it my best shot---in "The Genera of Araceae'' By Mayo, Bogner and Boyce, in the Glossary, pg. 310, it says--

"cataphyll--a modified leaf which lacks a blade and in appearance corresponds to a petiole sheath; may be used to describe other leaf types whose techinal names are defined by position rather than form, e.g. prophylls are usually of cataphyl shape in Araceae, see phrophyll."

"prophyll--the first leaf of a branch (or sypodial unit); in Araceae almost always a 2-keeled cataphyll, often confused with cataphyll:--  cataphyll refers to a particular type of morphology (reduced leaf), prophyll refers to the position of the leaf along a branch."

If one reads some of the descriptions of genera, one gets a better idea and understanding of these structures, especially when one views the excellent line illustrations and compares the text to the illustrations.   For example when discussing Philodendron, they state--
"LEAVES:  Numerous, small to gigantic, prophylls of mature stems caducous, marcescent and decidous or persistent and membranaceous or decomposing to net-fibrous remains."
In Anthurium---"LEAVES: prophylls and cataphylls usually +- persistent, entire (membranaceous) or rotting to a fibrous mass (net-fibrous), sometimes completely disppearing."

I can only HOPE this may assist Bernhard.
I wish I knew German, but Bernhard sometimes visits with Josef Bogner, so I feel certain that Josef can set him straight!

The Best,


>>Readers may remember a note from Bernhard in a recent posting as follows:

@ English native speakers/botanists: Is cataphyll the right term in English for "Huellblatt"? Or does the term only describe covering leafs over an "underground" bud?

I have had a couple of exchanges with him and have noticed that no one on the list has bellyed-up ("belly-up" is an Americanism that means to step up and take responsibility for a thing) to answer his inquiry. Perhaps it's because finding out what the heck a cataphyll is in English is not exactly trivial.

The only firm reference I found was from our own Deni Bown's famous book (page 41 in my edition), where she is at pains to differentiate between extensions of the basic leaf ("sheaths" in her example) and complete modified leaves (cataphylls) that shield or protect internodes. Or some such.

I have reviewed a number of botany books in my possession and none of them have "cataphyll" 'in the index, even those that helpfully provide glossaries of technical botanical terms.

I even checked the definitive dictionary of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). "Cataphyll" is not an entry in the Second Edition (copyright 2000). But it has an entry for "Cataphyllary", being an adjective for a noun not listed. The definition is: "the colorless or brownish scales found on various parts of plants, esp. underground, regarded as modifications of foliage leaves". The first reference listed is from 1875. The definition there is "Scale or 'Cataphyllary -Leaves' are usually produced on underground shoots . . although they also frequently occur above ground, especially as an envelope to the winter-buds of woody plants (as in the horse-chestnut, oak, etc.)".

The OED says the term comes from two Greek words meaning "degraded" and "leaf".

Bernhard's suggestion of the German term "Huellblatt", meaning literally a "hull-leaf" seems to accord with the definition matching the winter-bud idea. Attempts to find "cataphyll" (or "Huellblatt" for that matter) in my German-English dictionary and a couple of on-line translation resources were unsuccessful.

It seems to me that the idea of a tough, protective "hull-leaf" is not what we generally mean on Aroid-l by a cataphyll. The soft cataphylls shown by Deni Bown on the Anthurium do not seem to me to be of this "hull" sort. In Cryptocoryne (my own specialty, such as it is) what I refer to as cataphylls are even more prominent and leaf-like. Think of the Anthurium cataphylls being 10% to 25% or so the size of a normal leaf and fully green (compared with the idea of them being "colorless or brownish" from the OED). They are also persistent and do not dry and wither away like you might see on an Anthurium. Cryptocoryne leaves have distinctive, and often very elongated petioles (stalks). Cryptocoryne cataphylls do not have petioles. Some Cryptocoryne do not seem to grow cataphylls, while others, such as C. pontederifolia, have conspicuous ones.

Anyway, the point of this is to have one of our list botanists explain what is meant by "cataphyll" as it relates to aroids. If you also have a translation into German that would be a bonus.


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