Laboratory Notes for BIO 1003, 1016, & 3001

© 30 August 1999, John H. Wahlert, Mary Jean Holland, & Donald McClelland

[Anthophyta banner--Clivea in bloom]

Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Plantae

Flowering Plants

[apple blossom]The Division name Anthophyta simply means "flowering plant;" the other term, angiosperm, refers to the seeds being borne in a vessel called a fruit. The plant that you see is the diploid sporophyte. As in conifers the seed contains a sporophyte embryo and tissues from the mother plant; it is the fruit surrounding the seed that is unique to this group of plants. The life cycle is two-part with diploid sporophyte and haploid gametophyte stages. Like the conifers, these plants do not depend on water for fertilization of gametes. Anthophytes are the most successful of all divisions of plants; approximately 235,000 species are known and more are discovered almost daily as the tropics are explored. Some have returned to water, even salt water. Nearly all are photosynthetic but some, like mistletoe, are parasitic. Some, such as pitcher plants, are even insectivorous.

[grass flower in a lawn]The Anthophyta are divided into two major groups: dicots and monocots. The names refer to the embryonic leaves called cotyledons; monocots have one cotyledon, dicots have a pair. Corn, lilies, and grasses are monocots; peas, beans, peanuts, and maple trees are dicots.

Here, on the right, is blooming grass in a lawn in May; it is a close-up such as a mouse would see. There is a tiny flower hanging down and others clustered above it. These flowers are pollinated by wind.


Examine the parts of a lily flower (a monocot) and compare them with the model. Identify the central pistil (female part) which consists of the ovary at the base, a long style extending out from it and a broad tip called the stigma that catches pollen. The pistil is surrounded by stamens (male part); each consists of a thin filament with an anther at the tip. The anther is divided into chambers called microsporangia or pollen sacs. Petals, often brightly colored, surround the reproductive structures; the outermost green set are called sepals. All flower structures spring from a base called the receptacle.

flower parts
© D. McClelland

Lilium anthers x.s., pollen tetrads. Haploid microspores are produced inside the pollen sacs by meiosis, and they usually are in tetrads (groups of four). Each microspore divides by mitosis to form a male gametophyte or pollen grain. Pollen consists of a generative cell which floats in the cytoplasm of the tube cell; each of these cells has its own nucleus. Pollen can be transported by wind (grasses usually), insects (most of the colorful flowers), and by night flying moths and small mammals (bats and mice). Flowers usually contain a nutritious reward of extra pollen or sweet nectar for the pollinator. Pollinators brush against the ripe anthers and get covered with pollen.

[anther microsporangia][anther microsporangium]

Lilium: stigma and pollen tubes. Pollen brushes off its carrier onto the stigma of a pistil. The tube cell grows through the style to the ovary; the generative cell flows into the tube and divides by mitosis to form two sperm. The male gametophyte has matured.

[amaryllis stigma][lily stigma][sprouting pollen on stigma]
Stigma, pollen, and germinated pollen grain

[lily megasporocyte in ovule]Lilium ovary: megasporocyte. The ovary contains several ovules. Initially each contains a big, diploid megaspore mother cell in a chamber called the megasporangium. Tissue on either side, called integuments, grow and surround the megasporangium; they do not meet completely, and a tiny hole called the micropyle remains as a passage into the ovule for the pollen tube. The integuments will eventually become the seed coat.

[lily ovule, 4-nucleate cell]Lilium: first four-nucleate. The diploid megaspore mother cell undergoes meiosis without cytokinesis, so it then contains four nuclei. These nuclei undergo movement, combination, and mitosis to form the female gametophyte. Fertilization by the two sperm cells from the pollen is double. The egg is at the micropylar end of the ovule and is fertilized to become a diploid zygote. The other sperm enters the central cell and the resulting polyploid tissue is called endosperm. The zygote divides by mitosis to form an embryo sporophyte. The endosperm is a nutrient tissue within the seed (it is most of what you eat in corn).

Seeds and Fruits

Individual plants, excepting some algae, do not have the ability to move from place to place as many Protista and animals do. Instead they rely on spores and seeds for dispersal of their kind over the earth. Haploid spores (n), which are produced by meiosis, are tiny and easily carried by wind and water; seeds, which contain a diploid sporophyte embryo (2n) and its initial nutrient supply, are comparatively large; both spores and seeds are resistant to extremes of the plant's environment, e.g., cold and dryness.

Recall that in bryophytes and pterophytes the sporophyte and gametophyte are distinct phases in the life cycle; sporophytes are diploid (2n) and gametophytes haploid (n); sporophytes produce haploid spores by meiosis; gametophytes produce haploid gametes by mitosis and cellular differentiation.

Conifers and anthophytes, the seed bearing plants, have ovules; each ovule is a megasporangium surrounded by protective layers known as integuments. These complex structures are produced by the sporophyte plants. What has happened to the gametophytes? Pollen, which is transported mostly by wind (conifers and grasses) and insects (plants with obvious flowers) is the male gametophyte. The female gametophyte lies hidden in the megastrobilus of a conifer or ovary of an anthophyte. The production of seeds requires a parental investment of nutrients; it is only the life stage with vascular tissues, the sporophyte, that is designed to fill this demand. But not all plants with vascular tissue produce seeds: recall that ferns and their relatives produce spores and gametes.

A pine seed consists of a tough outer integument (2n) and nucellus or megasporangium (2n) that are part of the ovule of the parent sporophyte, haploid gametophyte tissue (n) and the embryo sporophyte (2n).

The seed of a flowering plant is similar to that of a conifer in that it has a tough, seed coat integument (2n) that is part of the parent's ovule wall. Within this is a special, triploid (3n) nutrient tissue called endosperm that was formed by a separate fertilization from that of the egg. Monocots have a large endosperm in the seeds, and the embryo sporophyte has one cotyledon; in dicots the nutrients of the endosperm have been transferred into the two cotyledons of the embryo sporophyte.

The seeds of flowering plants are not exposed as in conifers but are enclosed within another tissue, the fruit coat (2n) from the parent plant. In grain and corn the fruit coat is very thin and fused to the seed coat, but in many dicots the fruit is thick and often nutritious:

  • The shell of a peanut is the dried ovary, and the papery layer is the seed coat.
  • The pod of a pea or bean is the entire ovary with stigma and style at the tip. Each pea or bean is an ovule.
  • A tomato is the swollen ovary of the pistil; stigma and style may be found at its tip.
  • A raspberry or blackberry is a cluster of ovules, each containing a seed.
  • A strawberry is mostly the receptacle of the flower and the tiny ovaries with seeds dot its surface.
  • [apple]Apples contain not only the entire ovary, but the flower receptacle is swollen into the juicy outer part of the fruit; you can usually find the stigma, style, stamens, and sepals in the indented end of an apple.

Fruit is delicious and prized by many animals as food. The seeds resist attack by acid and enzymes in animal digestive systems. The seeds of fruit that is eaten get free transportation (dispersal) and are deposited in a rich packet of fertilizer. Some kinds of seeds are unable to germinate until the seed coat has been eroded by passage through an animal's digestive system.

Slides and specimens:

Zea mays: kernel l.s. (slide). The bulk of this monocot seed consists of endosperm, a triploid (3n) nutrient tissue. The single cotyledon is between it and the embryo sporophyte near the outside of the seed. The sporophyte consists of plumule (embryonic leaves), hypocotyl (embryonic stem), and radicle (embryonic root).

[peanut cotyledon with embryo sporophyte]Examine a dicot seed such as a peanut. The embryo sporophyte consists of plumule, hypocotyl, and radicle, as in corn, but the bulk of the seed is the pair of cotyledons, which are also diploid sporophyte tissue. The seeds of dicots break in half between the cotyledons. Recall that the dark seed coat is the old integument of the ovule. In dicots the nutrients of the endosperm are transferred into the cotyledons, and the endosperm is not seen.

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Last updated 6 April 2016 (JHW/DMcC)