, in botany, reproductive organ of the gymnosperms (the conifers
, and ginkgoes
). Like the flower in the angiosperms (flowering plants), the cone is actually a highly modified branch; unlike the flower, it does not have sepals or petals. Usually separate male (staminate, or pollen) cones and female (ovulate, or seed) cones are borne on the same plant. Each of the numerous scales, or sporophylls, of the staminate cone bears pollen
and each female-cone scale bears ovules in which egg cells are produced. In the pine, a conifer, the staminate cones are small and short-lived; they are borne in clusters at the top of the tree. At the time of pollination, enormous numbers of pollen grains are released and dispersed by wind; those that land accidentally on female-cone scales extend pollen tubes part way into the ovule during one growing season but usually do not reach the stage of actual fertilization until the next year. The cones that are commonly observed are the seed cones, which are normally hard and woody although in a few the scales are fleshy at maturity. The terms strobili
are also applied to the comparable and nonseed bearing structures of the horsetails and club mosses.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia Copyright © 2004.
Licensed from Columbia University Press