Hi my name's Ash, im 41 from North Wales. I am disabled due to a Road Traffic Accident when i was 6 years old. I've suffered head injury which i had short term memory but as i've gotten older my memory has improved a little. I work in a garden centre which i find interesting. My line manager has a mind of information about plants, she amazes me. She suggested to me last week to look up winter bulbs and learn a little about them which i looked online about and i understood the terms, Tunic which is the outer coat/skin of the bulb, Basal plate which is the flat part at the bottom of the bulb, but then i can't get my head around scales. It says online that scales are modified leaves which confuses things more. I can't imagine what modified leaves are. I thought a bulb was made of dead leaves. Because of my head injury i find it hard to grasp things which makes learning difficult. Is there an easier way to explain parts of a bulb?
Good question. The scales are the the part of the bulb which are attached to the root base, but do not grow into leaves or flower shoots.
Their purpose is to store food reserves for the plant to use when required.
I hope this explanation helps you.
Well done for attempting to get to grips with it.
Maybe this diagram will help.
I was going to suggest looking at an onion, as in Silver Surfer's link. If you cut it in half from top to bottom you can see all those bulb parts you mention - the tunic is the papery skin you take off before you cook it, and the base plate is the bit at the bottom with the roots, which holds the "scales" together. In an onion, the scales are the bit you eat. They don't look at all like leaves! If you keep an onion too long, a green shoot appears from the centre, and the rest of the onion begins to go soft - this is because the shoot is taking food and water from the "scales" around it.
When you plant a flower bulb in compost or in the ground, the roots take up water and food, and the bulb produces leaves and flowers. But you can tell there's a lot of "food" stored in the bulb because you can grow something like a hyacinth in a special jar with just water.
With bulbs, their green leaves also make food while they are growing. When they die down, the food goes down from the dead leaves into the bulb scales - so yes, you are quite right, the scales could be called "leaves that hold food". They can't actually make the food, because they are underground, but they are very important for storing the food made by the green leaves, so that the bulb can grow again the next year.
I have used a spring onion or leek to help explain ... if you dissect it and peel back the layers you can see where the leaves stop being green here they’ve been above ground and turn white and begin to get fatter below ground where they’re storing the energy.
Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.