AskDefine | Define involucre

Dictionary Definition

involucre n : a highly conspicuous bract or bract pair or ring of bracts at the base of an inflorescence [also: involucra (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Conspicuous bract, bract pair or ring of bracts at the base of an inflorescence.


conspicuous bract


Extensive Definition

The calybium and the cupule make up the accessory fruit of flowering plants in the family Fagaceae. These two parts derive from different flower components.
The cupule holds and protects the seed during its growth and maturation. In some genera (e.g. Lithocarpus, Quercus), it only partly encloses the single nut, while in others (e.g. Castanea, Fagus), it fully encloses the two or more nuts, and splits open at maturity into four valves to release the nuts. It is derived from the vegetative part of the flower (its attachment to the rest of the plant).
The cupule is covered by numerous scales. In some (e.g. Castanea), the scales are developed into sharp spines, giving the nut protection from squirrels and other seed predators, while in others (e.g. most Quercus), they are not. In Lithocarpus, the cupule is very hard and bone-like in texture.
The calybium (plural: calybia) is the fruit proper. It develops from an inferior ovary, meaning it is initially encased in the future cupule. Technically the calybium is a nut, as its ovary wall becomes dry with the embryo loosely enclosed inside, and remaining closed until germination.


The involucre corresponds to the cupule; it is found in the related family Betulaceae, notably in the genera Carpinus and Corylus. It differs in being more leafy in appearance, but performs a similar role in protecting the developing nuts. The term involucre is also used for a highly conspicuous bract, bract pair or ring of bracts at the base of an inflorescence.


  • (2003): A Miocene rodent nut cache in coastal dunes of the Lower Rhine Embayment, Germany. Palaeontology 46(6): 1133-1149.
involucre in German: Fruchtbecher
involucre in Esperanto: Kupulo
involucre in Dutch: Napje
involucre in Polish: Kupula
involucre in Turkish: Kupula
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