In the genus Cycas the female flower is peculiar among cycads in consisting of a terminal crown of separate leaf-like carpels several inches in length; the apical portion of each carpellary leaf may be broadly triangular in form, and deeply dissected on the margins into narrow woolly appendages like rudimentary pinnae.
In Cycas the stem apex, after producing a cluster of carpellary leaves, continues to elongate and produces more budscales, which are afterwards pushed aside as a fresh crown of fronds is developed.
The various genera are distinguished from one another by the shape and manner of attachment of the pinnae, the form of the carpellary scales, and to some extent by anatomical characters.
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.
Cases have been recorded (by Thiselton-Dyer in Encephalartos and by Wieland in Zamia) in which the short carpellary cone-scales exhibit a foliaceous form.