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Life cycle of flowering plants

(Solomon, et al; 2008: 612)

1 , sexual reproduction occurs in the flower.

In 2each young ovule within an ovary contains a megasporocyte (megaspore mother cell) that undergoes

meiosis to produce four haploid megaspores. Three of these usually disintegrate, and one divides mitotically
and

3 develops into a mature female gametophyte, also called an embryo sac. The most widely studied type of

embryo sac contains seven cells with eight haploid nuclei. Six of these cells, including the egg cell, contain a
single nucleus each, and a central cell has two nuclei, called polar nuclei. The egg and the central cell with two
polar nuclei are directly involved in fertilization; the other fi ve cells in the embryo sac apparently have no direct
role in the fertilization process and disintegrate. As the synergids (the two cells closely associated with the egg)
disintegrate, however, they release chemicals that may affect the direction of pollen tube growth. Each pollen
sac, or microsporangium, of the anther contains numerous microsporocytes (microspore mother cells)

4each of which undergoes meiosis to form four haploid microspores. Every microspore develops into

5 an immature male gameto-phyte, also called a pollen grain. Pollen grains are extremely small; each

consists of two cells: the tube cell and the generative cell. The anthers split open and begin to shed pollen. A
variety of agents, including wind, water, insects, and other animal pollinators (see Chapter 36), transfer pollen
grains to the stigma. As shown in

6 , if compatible with the stigma, the pollen grain germinates; that is, the tube cell forms a pollen tube that

grows down the style and into the ovary. The germinated pollen grain with its pollen tube is the mature male
gametophyte. Next, the generative cell divides to form two nonfl agellate sperm cells. The sperm cells move
down the pollen tube and are discharged into the embryo sac. Both sperm cells are involved in fertilization.
Something happens during sexual reproduction in fl owering plants that does not occur anywhere else in the
living world. As shown in

7 , when the two sperm cells enter the embryo sac, both participate in fertilization. One sperm cell fuses with

the egg, forming a zygote that grows by mitosis and develops into a multicellular embryo in the seed. The
second sperm cell fuses with the two haploid polar nuclei of the central cell to form a triploid (3n) cell that grows
by mitosis and develops into endosperm, a nutrient tissue rich in lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates that
nourishes the growing embryo. This fertilization process, which involves two separate nuclear fusions, is called
double fertilization and is, with two exceptions, unique to fl owering plants. (Double fertilization has been
reported in the gymnosperms Ephedra nevadensis and Gnetum gnemon. This process differs from double
fertilization in fl owering plants in that an additional zygote,rather than endosperm, is produced. The second
zygote later disintegrates.)
Seeds and fruits develop after fertilization
As a result of double fertilization and subsequent growth and development, each seed contains a young
plant embryo and nutritive tissue (the endosperm), both of which are surrounded by a protective seed
coat. In monocots the endosperm persists and is the main source of food in the mature seed. In most
eudicots the endosperm nourishes the developing embryo, which subsequently stores food in its
cotyledons.

As a seed develops from an ovule following fertilization (Fig. 28-13 8 ), the ovary wall surrounding it
enlarges dramatically and develops into a fruit. In some instances, other tissues associated with the
ovary also enlarge to form the fruit. Fruits serve two purposes: to protect the developing seeds from
desiccation as they grow and mature and to aid in the dispersal of seeds (see Chapter 36). For example,
dandelion fruits have feathery plumes that are lifted and carried by air currents. Animals often assist in
dispersing seeds found in edible fruits ( Fig. 28-14). Once a seed lands in a suitable place, it may
germinate and develop into a mature sporophyte that produces fl owers, and the life cycle continues as
described.