Glumes, grasses, and gondwana

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Fri Jun 21 19:04:27 CDT 2002

At 12:43 2002-06-21, Ken Kinman wrote:
>Are the "glumes" what give rise to the phrase
>"chaffy flowers"?

The Latin word for "chaff" (the bracts and other parts separated from the
grain in winnowing) is _palea_. This term has been applied to only one of
the types of bracts of a grass spikelet, the one that subtends the flower
(the bract that subtends the flower/palea unit is the lemma, and the glumes
are the lowermost bracts of the spikelet).

"Palea" was also applied to the bracts subtending the flowers in the heads
of many Asteraceae; these are often called "chaff" or "chaffy bracts" in
English, even though (to the best of my knowledge) no Asteraceae with
paleae were threshed and winnowed in Europe.

Curtis Clark        
Biological Sciences Department            Voice: +1 909 869 4062
California State Polytechnic University     FAX: +1 909 869 4078
Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                  jcclark at

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