In seed plants, the ovule is the structure that gives rise to and contains the female reproductive cells. It consists of three parts: The integument, forming its outer layer, the nucellus (or remnant of the megasporangium), and the female gametophyte (formed from a haploid megaspore) in its center. The female gametophyte — specifically termed a megagametophyte— is also called the embryo sac in angiosperms. The megagametophyte produces an egg cell for the purpose of fertilization.

Ovules in flower
Location of ovules inside a Helleborus foetidus flower

Location within the plant

In flowering plants, the ovule is located inside the portion of the flower called the gynoecium. The ovary of the gynoecium produces one or more ovules and ultimately becomes the fruit wall. Ovules are attached to the placenta in the ovary through a stalk-like structure known as a funiculus (plural, funiculi). Different patterns of ovule attachment, or placentation, can be found among plant species, these include:[1]

  • Apical placentation: The placenta is at the apex (top) of the ovary. Simple or compound ovary.
  • Axile placentation: The ovary is divided into radial segments, with placentas in separate locules. Ventral sutures of carpels meet at the centre of the ovary. Placentae are along fused margins of carpels. Two or more carpels. (e.g. Hibiscus, Citrus, Solanum)
  • Basal placentation: The placenta is at the base (bottom) of the ovary on a protrusion of the thalamus (receptacle). Simple or compound carpel, unilocular ovary. (e.g. Sonchus, Helianthus, Compositae)
  • Free-central placentation: Derived from axile as partitions are absorbed, leaving ovules at the central axis. Compound unilocular ovary. (e.g. Stellaria, Dianthus)
  • Marginal placentation: Simplest type. There is only one elongated placenta on one side of the ovary, as ovules are attached at the fusion line of the carpel's margins . This is conspicuous in legumes. Simple carpel, unilocular ovary. (e.g. Pisum)
  • Parietal placentation: Placentae on inner ovary wall within a non-sectioned ovary, corresponding to fused carpel margins. Two or more carpels, unilocular ovary. (e.g. Brassica)
  • Superficial: Similar to axile, but placentae are on inner surfaces of multilocular ovary (e.g. Nymphaea)

In gymnosperms such as conifers, ovules are borne on the surface of an ovuliferous (ovule-bearing) scale, usually within an ovulate cone (also called megastrobilus). In some extinct plants (e.g. Pteridosperms), megasporangia and perhaps ovules were borne on the surface of leaves. In other extinct taxa, a cupule (a modified leaf or part of a leaf) surrounds the ovule (e.g. Caytonia or Glossopteris).

Ovule parts and development

Ovule morphology anatropous
Ovule structure (anatropous) 1: nucleus 2: chalaza 3: funiculus 4: raphe

Ovule orientation may be anatropous, such that when inverted the micropyle faces the placenta (this is the most common ovule orientation in flowering plants), amphitropous, campylotropous, or orthotropous. The ovule appears to be a megasporangium with integuments surrounding it. Ovules are initially composed of diploid maternal tissue, which includes a megasporocyte (a cell that will undergo meiosis to produce megaspores). Megaspores remain inside the ovule and divide by mitosis to produce the haploid female gametophyte or megagametophyte, which also remains inside the ovule. The remnants of the megasporangium tissue (the nucellus) surround the megagametophyte. Megagametophytes produce archegonia (lost in some groups such as flowering plants), which produce egg cells. After fertilization, the ovule contains a diploid zygote and then, after cell division begins, an embryo of the next sporophyte generation. In flowering plants, a second sperm nucleus fuses with other nuclei in the megagametophyte forming a typically polyploid (often triploid) endosperm tissue, which serves as nourishment for the young sporophyte.

Integuments, micropyle and chalaza

Plant ovules: Gymnosperm ovule on left, angiosperm ovule (inside ovary) on right
Modellreihe von Grundformen der Samenanlagen -Brendel Nr. 164-166-
Models of different ovules, Botanical Museum Greifswald

An integument is a protective cell layer surrounding the ovule. Gymnosperms typically have one integument (unitegmic) while angiosperms typically have two integuments (bitegmic). The evolutionary origin of the inner integument (which is integral to the formation of ovules from megasporangia) has been proposed to be by enclosure of a megasporangium by sterile branches (telomes).[2] Elkinsia, a preovulate taxon, has a lobed structure fused to the lower third of the megasporangium, with the lobes extending upwards in a ring around the megasporangium. This might, through fusion between lobes and between the structure and the megasporangium, have produced an integument.[3]

The origin of the second or outer integument has been an area of active contention for some time. The cupules of some extinct taxa have been suggested as the origin of the outer integument. A few angiosperms produce vascular tissue in the outer integument, the orientation of which suggests that the outer surface is morphologically abaxial. This suggests that cupules of the kind produced by the Caytoniales or Glossopteridales may have evolved into the outer integument of angiosperms.[4]

The integuments develop into the seed coat when the ovule matures after fertilization.

The integuments do not enclose the nucellus completely but retain an opening at the apex referred to as the micropyle. The micropyle opening allows the pollen (a male gametophyte) to enter the ovule for fertilization. In gymnosperms (e.g., conifers), the pollen is drawn into the ovule on a drop of fluid that exudes out of the micropyle, the so-called pollination drop mechanism.[3] Subsequently, the micropyle closes. In angiosperms, only a pollen tube enters the micropyle. During germination, the seedling's radicle emerges through the micropyle.

Located opposite from the micropyle is the chalaza where the nucellus is joined to the integuments. Nutrients from the plant travel through the phloem of the vascular system to the funiculus and outer integument and from there apoplastically and symplastically through the chalaza to the nucellus inside the ovule. In chalazogamous plants, the pollen tubes enter the ovule through the chalaza instead of the micropyle opening.

Nucellus, megaspore and perisperm

The nucellus (plural: nucelli) is part of the inner structure of the ovule, forming a layer of diploid (sporophytic) cells immediately inside the integuments. It is structurally and functionally equivalent to the megasporangium. In immature ovules, the nucellus contains a megasporocyte (megaspore mother cell), which undergoes sporogenesis via meiosis. In the megasporocyte of Arabidopsis thaliana, meiosis depends on the expression of genes that facilitate DNA repair and homologous recombination.[5]

In gymnosperms, three of the four haploid spores produced in meiosis typically degenerate, leaving one surviving megaspore inside the nucellus. Among angiosperms, however, a wide range of variation exists in what happens next. The number (and position) of surviving megaspores, the total number of cell divisions, whether nuclear fusions occur, and the final number, position and ploidy of the cells or nuclei all vary. A common pattern of embryo sac development (the Polygonum type maturation pattern) includes a single functional megaspore followed by three rounds of mitosis. In some cases, however, two megaspores survive (for example, in Allium and Endymion). In some cases all four megaspores survive, for example in the Fritillaria type of development (illustrated by Lilium in the figure) there is no separation of the megaspores following meiosis, then the nuclei fuse to form a triploid nucleus and a haploid nucleus. The subsequent arrangement of cells is similar to the Polygonum pattern, but the ploidy of the nuclei is different.[6]

After fertilization, the nucellus may develop into the perisperm that feeds the embryo. In some plants, the diploid tissue of the nucellus can give rise to the embryo within the seed through a mechanism of asexual reproduction called nucellar embryony.


Embryosack Polygonum Lilium
Megagametophyte formation of the genera Polygonum and Lilium. Triploid nuclei are shown as ellipses with three white dots. The first three columns show the meiosis of the megaspore, followed by 1-2 mitoses.
Ovule with megagametophyte: egg cell (yellow), synergids (orange), central cell with two polar nuclei (bright green), and antipodals (dark green)

The haploid megaspore inside the nucellus gives rise to the female gametophyte, called the megagametophyte.

In gymnosperms, the megagametophyte consists of around 2000 nuclei and forms archegonia, which produce egg cells for fertilization.

In flowering plants, the megagametophyte (also referred to as the embryo sac) is much smaller and typically consists of only seven cells and eight nuclei. This type of megagametophyte develops from the megaspore through three rounds of mitotic divisions. The cell closest to the micropyle opening of the integuments differentiates into the egg cell, with two synergid cells by its side that are involved in the production of signals that guide the pollen tube. Three antipodal cells form on the opposite (chalazal) end of the ovule and later degenerate. The large central cell of the embryo sac contains two polar nuclei.

Zygote, embryo and endosperm

The pollen tube releases two sperm nuclei into the ovule. In gymnosperms, fertilization occurs within the archegonia produced by the female gametophyte. While it is possible that several egg cells are present and fertilized, typically only one zygote will develop into a mature embryo as the resources within the seed are limited.

In flowering plants, one sperm nucleus fuses with the egg cell to produce a zygote, the other fuses with the two polar nuclei of the central cell to give rise to the polyploid (typically triploid) endosperm. This double fertilization is unique to flowering plants, although in some other groups the second sperm cell does fuse with another cell in the megagametophyte to produce a second embryo. The plant stores nutrients such as starch, proteins, and oils in the endosperm as a food source for the developing embryo and seedling, serving a similar function to the yolk of animal eggs. The endosperm is also called the albumen of the seed.

Embryos may be described by a number of terms including Linear (embryos have axile placentation and are longer than broad), or rudimentary (embryos are basal in which the embryo is tiny in relation to the endosperm).[7]

Types of gametophytes

Megagametophytes of flowering plants may be described according to the number of megaspores developing, as either monosporic, bisporic, or tetrasporic.(RF)

See also


  1. ^ Kotpal, Tyagi, Bendre, & Pande. Concepts of Biology XI. Rastogi Publications, 2nd ed. New Delhi 2007. ISBN 8171338968. Fig. 38 Types of placentation, page 2-127
  2. ^ Herr, J.M. Jr., 1995. The origin of the ovule. Am. J. Bot. 82(4):547-64
  3. ^ a b Stewart, W.N.; Rothwell, G.W. (1993). Paleobotany and the evolution of plants. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521382947.
  4. ^ Frohlich and Chase, 2007. After a dozen years of progress, the origin of angiosperms is still a great mystery. Nature 450:1184-1189 (20 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06393;
  5. ^ Seeliger K, Dukowic-Schulze S, Wurz-Wildersinn R, Pacher M, Puchta H (2012). "BRCA2 is a mediator of RAD51- and DMC1-facilitated homologous recombination in Arabidopsis thaliana". New Phytol. 193 (2): 364–75. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2011.03947.x. PMID 22077663.
  6. ^ Gifford, E.M.; Foster, A.S. (1989), Morphology and evolution of vascular plants, New York: W. H. Freeman and Company
  7. ^ The Seed Biology Place:Structural seed types based on comparative internal morphology



The chalaza (; from Greek χάλαζα "hailstone"; plural chalazas or chalazae, ) is a structure inside bird and reptile eggs and plant ovules. It attaches or suspends the yolk or nucellus within the larger structure.

Chloroplast capture

Chloroplast capture is an evolutionary process through which inter-species hybridization and subsequent backcrosses yield a plant with new genetic combination of nuclear and chloroplast genomes. For instance, 1) species A's (having chloroplast genome a and nuclear genome AA) pollen hybridizes (backcross) to species B's (b and BB) ovule, yielding the 1st hybrid (F1) with chloroplast genome b and nuclear genome A (50%) and B (50%); 2) species A's pollen again hybridizes (backcross) to F1's ovule, yielding the 2nd hybrid (F2) with chloroplast genome b and nuclear genome A (75%) and B (25%); 3) species A's pollen again hybridizes (backcross) to F2's ovule, yielding the 3rd hybrid (F3) with chloroplast genome b and nuclear genome A (87.5%) and B (12.5%); 4) after further backcross generations, a plant is obtained with the new genetic combination (chloroplast genome b and nuclear genome A).

Double fertilization

Double fertilization is a complex fertilization mechanism of flowering plants (angiosperms). This process involves the joining of a female gametophyte (megagametophyte, also called the embryo sac) with two male gametes (sperm). It begins when a pollen grain adheres to the stigma of the carpel, the female reproductive structure of a flower. The pollen grain then takes in moisture and begins to germinate, forming a pollen tube that extends down toward the ovary through the style. The tip of the pollen tube then enters the ovary and penetrates through the micropyle opening in the ovule. The pollen tube proceeds to release the two sperm in the megagametophyte.

The cells of an unfertilized ovule are 8 in number and arranged in the form of 3+2+3 (from top to bottom) i.e. 3 antipodal cells, 2 polar central cells, 2 synergids & 1 egg cell. One sperm fertilizes the egg cell and the other sperm combines with the two polar nuclei of the large central cell of the megagametophyte. The haploid sperm and haploid egg combine to form a diploid zygote,the process being called syngamy, while the other sperm and the two haploid polar nuclei of the large central cell of the megagametophyte form a triploid nucleus (triple fusion). Some plants may form polyploid nuclei. The large cell of the gametophyte will then develop into the endosperm, a nutrient-rich tissue which provides nourishment to the developing embryo. The ovary, surrounding the ovules, develops into the fruit, which protects the seeds and may function to disperse them.The two central cell maternal nuclei (polar nuclei) that contribute to the endosperm, arise by mitosis from the same single meiotic product that gave rise to the egg. The maternal contribution to the genetic constitution of the triploid endosperm is double that of the embryo.

In a study conducted in 2008 of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the migration of male nuclei inside the female gamete, in fusion with the female nuclei, has been documented for the first time using in vivo imaging. Some of the genes involved in the migration and fusion process have also been determined.Evidence of double fertilization in Gnetales, which are non-flowering seed plants, has been reported.

Egg cell

The egg cell, or ovum (plural ova), is the female reproductive cell (gamete) in oogamous organisms. The egg cell is typically not capable of active movement, and it is much larger (visible to the naked eye) than the motile sperm cells. When egg and sperm fuse, a diploid cell (the zygote) is formed, which rapidly grows into a new organism.


Fertilisation or fertilization (see spelling differences), also known as generative fertilisation, insemination, pollination, fecundation, syngamy and impregnation, is the fusion of gametes to initiate the development of a new individual organism or offspring. This cycle of fertilisation and development of new individuals is called sexual reproduction. During double fertilisation in angiosperms the haploid male gamete combines with two haploid polar nuclei to form a triploid primary endosperm nucleus by the process of vegetative fertilisation.


The gymnosperms, also known as Acrogymnospermae, are a group of seed-producing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and gnetophytes. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the composite word in Greek: γυμνόσπερμος (γυμνός, gymnos, 'naked' and σπέρμα, sperma, 'seed'), literally meaning "naked seeds". The name is based on the unenclosed condition of their seeds (called ovules in their unfertilized state). The non-encased condition of their seeds contrasts with the seeds and ovules of flowering plants (angiosperms), which are enclosed within an ovary. Gymnosperm seeds develop either on the surface of scales or leaves, which are often modified to form cones, or solitary as in yew, Torreya, Ginkgo.The gymnosperms and angiosperms together compose the spermatophytes or seed plants. The gymnosperms are divided into six phyla. Organisms that belong to the Cycadophyta, Ginkgophyta, Gnetophyta, and Pinophyta (also known as Coniferophyta) phyla are still in existence while those in the Pteridospermales and Cordaitales phyla are now extinct.By far the largest group of living gymnosperms are the conifers (pines, cypresses, and relatives), followed by cycads, gnetophytes (Gnetum, Ephedra and Welwitschia), and Ginkgo biloba (a single living species).

Roots in some genera have fungal association with roots in the form of mycorrhiza (Pinus), while in some others (Cycas) small specialised roots called coralloid roots are associated with nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria.


Gynoecium (, from Ancient Greek γυνή, gyne, meaning woman, and οἶκος, oikos, meaning house) is most commonly used as a collective term for the parts of a flower that produce ovules and ultimately develop into the fruit and seeds. The gynoecium is the innermost whorl of a flower; it consists of (one or more) pistils and is typically surrounded by the pollen-producing reproductive organs, the stamens, collectively called the androecium. The gynoecium is often referred to as the "female" portion of the flower, although rather than directly producing female gametes (i.e. egg cells), the gynoecium produces megaspores, each of which develops into a female gametophyte which then produces egg cells.

The term gynoecium is also used by botanists to refer to a cluster of archegonia and any associated modified leaves or stems present on a gametophyte shoot in mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. The corresponding terms for the male parts of those plants are clusters of antheridia within the androecium.

Flowers that bear a gynoecium but no stamens are called pistillate or carpellate. Flowers lacking a gynoecium are called staminate.

The gynoecium is often referred to as female because it gives rise to female (egg-producing) gametophytes; however, strictly speaking sporophytes do not have a sex, only gametophytes do.Gynoecium development and arrangement is important in systematic research and identification of angiosperms, but can be the most challenging of the floral parts to interpret.


A gynophore is the stalk of certain flowers which supports the gynoecium (the ovule-producing part of a flower), elevating it above the branching points of other floral parts.Plant genera that have flowers with gynophores include Telopea, Peritoma arborea and Brachychiton.


Leea (Tagalog: Talyantan) is a genus of plants that are distributed throughout Northern and eastern Australia, New Guinea, South and Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Leea contains approximately 70 species and is placed in the Vitaceae family. The APG IV system places Leea in the subfamily Leeoideae (Vitaceae). Leea is often placed in its own family, Leeaceae, based on morphological differences between it and Vitaceae. These differences include ovule number per locule (two in Vitaceae and one in Leeaceae), carpel number (two in Vitaceae and three in Leeaceae), and the absence or presence of a staminoidal tube (present in Leeaceae) and floral disc (present in Vitaceae). Pollen structure has also been examined for taxonomic demarcation, though studies have concluded that the pollen of Leeaceae and Vitaceae suggests the families should remain separate while other studies conclude that Leea should be included in Vitaceae.The genus was named by Linnaeus after James Lee, the Scottish nurseryman based in Hammersmith, London who introduced many new plant discoveries to England at the end of the 18th century.


Malveae is a tribe of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae, subfamily Malvoideae. The tribe circumscribes approximately 70 genera and 1040 species and has the greatest species diversity out the three tribes that make up Malvoideae (followed by Hibisceae and then Gossypieae). The flowers of Malveae are five-merous with a characteristic staminal column, a trait found throughout Malvoideae. Although there are not many economically important species within Malveae, the tribe includes Althaea officinalis, otherwise known as the Marsh Mallow.

The fruits of Malveae are generally schizocarpic, although some are functionally capsular. The tribe generally includes herbaceous plants, although Robinsonella includes some tree species. The tribe is a well supported monophyletic group, supported by chloroplast and ribosomal DNA. Within Malvoideae, Malveae forms a monophyletic clade with Gossypieae, sister to Hibisceae. Malveae species are primarily found in the Americas, although genera within the tribe are also found in Eurasia, Australia, and Africa.The intergeneric relationships within Malveae are not well resolved. The tribe was originally split between Eumalveae, Malopeae, Sideae and Abutileae based on carpel arrangement, ovule numbers and the flowers' stigmatic arrangements, however, now Malveae is generally grouped into 14 alliances (Abutilon, Batesimalva, Kearnemalvastrum, Malvastrum, Sphaeralcea, Modiola, Anoda, Gaya, Malope, Anisodontea, Malva, Sidalcea, Malacothamnus and Plagianthus). Recent ribosomal sequencing, however, suggests that these alliances are non monophyletic and may be better characterized by the presence or absence of involucre bracts (i.e., an epicalyx). No new phylogenies have yet been proposed.


Megaspores, also called macrospores, are a type of spore that is present in heterosporous plants. These plants have two spore types, megaspores and microspores. Generally speaking, the megaspore, or large spore, germinates into a female gametophyte, which produces egg cells. These are fertilized by sperm produced by the male gametophyte developing from the microspore. Heterosporous plants include the following:

seed plants (gymnosperms and flowering plants)

water ferns (Salviniales)

spikemosses (Selaginellaceae)

Ovary (botany)

In the flowering plants, an ovary is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower or gynoecium. Specifically, it is the part of the pistil which holds the ovule(s) and is located above or below or at the point of connection with the base of the petals and sepals. The pistil may be made up of one carpel or of several fused carpels (e.g. dicarpel or tricarpel), and therefore the ovary can contain part of one carpel or parts of several fused carpels. Above the ovary is the style and the stigma, which is where the pollen lands and germinates to grow down through the style to the ovary, and, for each individual pollen grain, to fertilize one individual ovule. Some wind pollinated flowers have much reduced and modified ovaries.

Pollen tube

A pollen tube is a tubular structure produced by the male gametophyte of seed plants when it germinates. Pollen tube elongation is an integral stage in the plant life cycle. The pollen tube acts as a conduit to transport the male gamete cells from the pollen grain—either from the stigma (in flowering plants) to the ovules at the base of the pistil or directly through ovule tissue in some gymnosperms. In maize, this single cell can grow longer than 12 inches (30 cm) to traverse the length of the pistil.

Pollen tubes were first discovered by Giovanni Battista Amici in the 19th century.

They are used as a model for understanding plant cell behavior. Research is ongoing to comprehend how the pollen tube responds to extracellular guidance signals to achieve fertilization.


Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, and bats; water; wind; and even plants themselves, when self-pollination occurs within a closed flower. Pollination often occurs within a species. When pollination occurs between species it can produce hybrid offspring in nature and in plant breeding work.

In angiosperms, after the pollen grain has landed on the stigma, it develops a pollen tube which grows down the style until it reaches an ovary. Sperm cells from the pollen grain then move along the pollen tube, enter an ovum cell through the micropyle and fertilise it, resulting in the production of a seed.

A successful angiosperm pollen grain (gametophyte) containing the male gametes is transported to the stigma, where it germinates and its pollen tube grows down the style to the ovary. Its two gametes travel down the tube to where the gametophyte(s) containing the female gametes are held within the carpel. One nucleus fuses with the polar bodies to produce the endosperm tissues, and the other with the ovule to produce the embryo Hence the term: "double fertilization".

In gymnosperms, the ovule is not contained in a carpel, but exposed on the surface of a dedicated support organ, such as the scale of a cone, so that the penetration of carpel tissue is unnecessary. Details of the process vary according to the division of gymnosperms in question. Two main modes of fertilization are found in gymnosperms. Cycads and Ginkgo have motile sperm that swim directly to the egg inside the ovule, whereas conifers and gnetophytes have sperm that are unable to swim but are conveyed to the egg along a pollen tube.

The study of pollination brings together many disciplines, such as botany, horticulture, entomology, and ecology. The pollination process as an interaction between flower and pollen vector was first addressed in the 18th century by Christian Konrad Sprengel. It is important in horticulture and agriculture, because fruiting is dependent on fertilization: the result of pollination. The study of pollination by insects is known as anthecology.


A seed is an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering. The formation of the seed is part of the process of reproduction in seed plants, the spermatophytes, including the gymnosperm and angiosperm plants.

Seeds are the product of the ripened ovule, after fertilization by pollen and some growth within the mother plant. The embryo is developed from the zygote and the seed coat from the integuments of the ovule.

Seeds have been an important development in the reproduction and success of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants, relative to more primitive plants such as ferns, mosses and liverworts, which do not have seeds and use water-dependent means to propagate themselves. Seed plants now dominate biological niches on land, from forests to grasslands both in hot and cold climates.

The term "seed" also has a general meaning that antedates the above – anything that can be sown, e.g. "seed" potatoes, "seeds" of corn or sunflower "seeds". In the case of sunflower and corn "seeds", what is sown is the seed enclosed in a shell or husk, whereas the potato is a tuber.

Many structures commonly referred to as "seeds" are actually dry fruits. Plants producing berries are called baccate. Sunflower seeds are sometimes sold commercially while still enclosed within the hard wall of the fruit, which must be split open to reach the seed. Different groups of plants have other modifications, the so-called stone fruits (such as the peach) have a hardened fruit layer (the endocarp) fused to and surrounding the actual seed. Nuts are the one-seeded, hard-shelled fruit of some plants with an indehiscent seed, such as an acorn or hazelnut.


Self-pollination is when pollen from the same plant arrives at the stigma of a flower (in flowering plants) or at the ovule (in gymnosperms). There are two types of self-pollination: in autogamy, pollen is transferred to the stigma of the same flower; in geitonogamy, pollen is transferred from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower on the same flowering plant, or from microsporangium to ovule within a single (monoecious) gymnosperm. Some plants have mechanisms that ensure autogamy, such as flowers that do not open (cleistogamy), or stamens that move to come into contact with the stigma. The term selfing that is often used as a synonym, is not limited to self-pollination, but also applies to other types of self-fertilization.

Sex organ

A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal's body that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. The testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, are called the primary sex organs. The external sex organs – the genitals or genitalia, visible at birth in both sexes, and the internal sex organs are called the secondary sex organs.Mosses, ferns, and some similar plants have gametangia for reproductive organs, which are part of the gametophyte. The flowers of flowering plants produce pollen and egg cells, but the sex organs themselves are inside the gametophytes within the pollen and the ovule. Coniferous plants likewise produce their sexually reproductive structures within the gametophytes contained within the cones and pollen. The cones and pollen are not themselves sexual organs.


A sporophyte () is the diploid multicellular stage in the life cycle of a plant or alga. It develops from the zygote produced when a haploid egg cell is fertilized by a haploid sperm and each sporophyte cell therefore has a double set of chromosomes, one set from each parent. All land plants, and most multicellular algae, have life cycles in which a multicellular diploid sporophyte phase alternates with a multicellular haploid gametophyte phase. In the seed plants, (gymnosperms) and flowering plants (angiosperms), the sporophyte phase is more prominent than the gametophyte, and is the familiar green plant with its roots, stem, leaves and cones or flowers. In flowering plants the gametophytes are very reduced in size, and are represented by the germinated pollen and the embryo sac.

The sporophyte produces spores (hence the name) by meiosis, a process also known as "reduction division" that reduces the number of chromosomes in each spore mother cell by half. The resulting meiospores develop into a gametophyte. Both the spores and the resulting gametophyte are haploid, meaning they only have one set of chromosomes. The mature gametophyte produces male or female gametes (or both) by mitosis. The fusion of male and female gametes produces a diploid zygote which develops into a new sporophyte. This cycle is known as alternation of generations or alternation of phases.

Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) have a dominant gametophyte phase on which the adult sporophyte is dependent for nutrition. The embryo sporophyte develops by cell division of the zygote within the female sex organ or archegonium, and in its early development is therefore nurtured by the gametophyte.

Because this embryo-nurturing feature of the life cycle is common to all land plants they are known collectively as the embryophytes.

Most algae have dominant gametophyte generations, but in some species the gametophytes and sporophytes are morphologically similar (isomorphic). An independent sporophyte is the dominant form in all clubmosses, horsetails, ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms that have survived to the present day. Early land plants had sporophytes that produced identical spores (isosporous or homosporous) but the ancestors of the gymnosperms evolved complex heterosporous life cycles in which the spores producing male and female gametophytes were of different sizes, the female megaspores tending to be larger, and fewer in number, than the male microspores.

During the Devonian period several plant groups independently evolved heterospory and subsequently the habit of endospory, in which the gametophytes develop in miniaturized form inside the spore wall. By contrast in exosporous plants, including modern ferns, the gametophytes break the spore wall open on germination and develop outside it. The megagametophytes of endosporic plants such as the seed ferns developed within the sporangia of the parent sporophyte, producing a miniature multicellular female gametophyte complete with female sex organs, or archegonia. The oocytes were fertilized in the archegonia by free-swimming flagellate sperm produced by windborne miniaturized male gametophytes in the form of pre-pollen. The resulting zygote developed into the next sporophyte generation while still retained within the pre-ovule, the single large female meiospore or megaspore contained in the modified sporangium or nucellus of the parent sporophyte. The evolution of heterospory and endospory were among the earliest steps in the evolution of seeds of the kind produced by gymnosperms and angiosperms today.


A volute is a spiral, scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order, found in the capital of the Ionic column. It was later incorporated into Corinthian order and Composite column capitals. Four are normally to be found on an Ionic capital, eight on Composite capitals and smaller versions (sometimes called helix) on the Corinthian capital.The word derives from the Latin voluta ("scroll"). It has been suggested that the ornament was inspired by the curve of a ram's horns, or perhaps was derived from the natural spiral found in the ovule of a common species of clover native to Greece. Alternatively, it may simply be of geometrical origin.The ornament can be seen in Renaissance and Baroque architecture and is a common decoration in furniture design, silverware and ceramics. A method of drawing the complex geometry was devised by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius through the study of classical buildings and structures.

Plant groups
Plant morphology
Plant growth and habit
Plant taxonomy
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