One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A large sheathing bract enclosing the flower cluster of certain plants, especially the spadix of arums and palms.
- ‘It will take a few years to flower but the long yellow spathes that appear in spring before the leaves develop are well worth the wait.’
- ‘The flower head consists of a spathe and spadix.’
- ‘Four of the five bracts that enclose and protect the plant's spathe and spadix now have fallen.’
- ‘Always bitterly exuberant, you see life as a pink spathe swathing a yellow spadix.’
- ‘At the correct stage of maturity, Narcissi have slightly bowed buds and visible color, and flowers are emerging from the spathes.’
Late 18th century: via Latin from Greek spathē ‘broad blade’.
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