In structure a cycadean sporangium recalls those of certain ferns (Marattiaceae, Osmundaceae and Schizaeaceae), but in the development of the spores there are certain peculiarities not met with among the Vascular Cryptogams. With the exception of Cycas, the female flowers are also in the form of cones, bearing numerous carpellary scales.
In marginal placentation the part of the carpel bearing the placenta is the inner or ventral suture, corresponding to the margin of the folded carpellary leaf, while the outer or dorsal suture corresponds to the midrib of the carpellary leaf.
Without expressing any decided opinion as to the morphology of the double cone-scale of the Abietineae, preference may be felt in favour of regarding the cone-scale of the Araucarieae as a simple carpellary leaf bearing a single ovule.
The occurrence of buds in the axils of carpellary scales may, however, simply mean that buds, which are (C and D after Worsdell.) FIG.
Ovules naked, rarely without carpellary leaves, usually borne on carpophylls, which assume various forms. The single megaspore enclosed in the nucellus is filled with tissue (prothallus) before fertilization, and contains two or more archegonia, consisting usually of a large egg-cell and a small neck, rarely of an egg-cell only and no neck (Gnetum and Welwitschia).
As the cone grows in size and becomes woody the lower half of the cone-scale, which we may call the carpellary scale, may remain small, and is so far outgrown by the upper half (seminiferous scale) that it is hardly recognizable in the mature cone.
Eichler, one of the chief supporters of the simpler view, does not recognize in the inverse orientation of the vascular bundles an argument in support of the axillary-bud theory, but points out that the seminiferous scale, being an outgrowth from the surface of the carpellary scale, would, like outgrowths from an ordinary leaf, naturally have its bundles inversely orientated.
In a young cone the seminiferous scale appears as a hump of tissue at the base or in the axil of the carpellary scale, but Celakovsky, a strong supporter of the axillary-bud theory, attaches little or no importance to this kind of evidence, regarding the present manner of development as being merely an example of a short cut adopted in the course of evolution, and replacing the original production of a branch in the axil of each carpellary scale.
In Cycas the altered leaf, upon the margin of which the ovule is produced, and the peltate scales, from which they are pendulous in Zamia, are regarded by all botanists as carpellary leaves.
In 1869 van Tieghem laid stress on anatomical evidence as a key to the morphology of the cone-scales; he drew attention to the fact that the collateral vascular bundles of the seminiferous scale are inversely orientated as compared with those of the carpellary scale; in the latter the xylem of each bundle is next the upper surface, while in the seminiferous scale the phloem occupies that position.