Among all living organisms, flowers, which are the reproductive structures of angiosperms, are the most varied physically and show a correspondingly great diversity in methods of reproduction. Plants that are not flowering plants (green algae, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, ferns and gymnosperms such as conifers) also have complex interplays between morphological adaptation and environmental factors in their sexual reproduction. The breeding system, or how the sperm from one plant fertilizes the ovum of another, depends on the reproductive morphology, and is the single most important determinant of the genetic structure of nonclonal plant populations. Christian Konrad Sprengel (1793) studied the reproduction of flowering plants and for the first time it was understood that the pollination process involved both biotic and abiotic interactions. Charles Darwin's theories of natural selection utilized this work to build his theory of evolution, which includes analysis of the coevolution of flowers and their insect pollinators.
Plants have complex lifecycles involving alternation of generations. One generation, the sporophyte, gives rise to the next generation asexually via spores. Spores may be identical isospores or come in different sizes (microspores and megaspores), but strictly speaking, spores and sporophytes are neither male nor female because they do not produce gametes. The alternate generation, the gametophyte, produces gametes, eggs and/or sperm. A gametophyte can be monoicous (bisexual), producing both eggs and sperm or dioicous (unisexual), either female (producing eggs) or male (producing sperm).
In the bryophytes (liverworts, mosses and hornworts), the sexual gametophyte is the dominant generation. In ferns and seed plants (including cycads, conifers, flowering plants, etc.) the sporophyte is the dominant generation. The obvious visible plant, whether a small herb or a large tree, is the sporophyte, and the gametophyte is very small. In seed plants, each female gametophyte, and the spore that gives rise to it, is hidden within the sporophyte and is entirely dependent on it for nutrition. Each male gametophyte typically consists of from two to four cells enclosed within the protective wall of a pollen grain.
The sporophyte of a flowering plant is often described using sexual terms (e.g. "female" or "male") based on the sexuality of the gametophyte it gives rise to. For example, a sporophyte that produces spores that give rise only to male gametophytes may be described as "male", even though the sporophyte itself is asexual, producing only spores. Similarly, flowers produced by the sporophyte may be described as "unisexual" or "bisexual", meaning that they give rise to either one sex of gametophyte or both sexes of gametophyte.
The flower is the characteristic structure concerned with sexual reproduction in flowering plants (angiosperms). Flowers vary enormously in their construction (morphology). A "complete" flower, like that of Ranunculus glaberrimus shown in the figure, has a calyx of outer sepals and a corolla of inner petals. The sepals and petals together form the perianth. Next inwards there are numerous stamens, which produce pollen grains, each containing a microscopic male gametophyte. Stamens may be called the "male" parts of a flower and collectively form the androecium. Finally in the middle there are carpels, which at maturity contain one or more ovules, and within each ovule is a tiny female gametophyte. Carpels may be called the "female" parts of a flower and collectively form the gynoecium.
Each carpel in Ranunculus species is an achene that produces one ovule, which when fertilized becomes a seed. If the carpel contains more than one seed, as in Eranthis hyemalis, it is called a follicle. Two or more carpels may be fused together to varying degrees and the entire structure, including the fused styles and stigmas may be called a pistil. The lower part of the pistil, where the ovules are produced, is called the ovary. It may be divided into chambers (locules) corresponding to the separate carpels.
A "perfect" flower has both stamens and carpels, and may be described as "bisexual" or "hermaphroditic". A "unisexual" flower is one in which either the stamens or the carpels are missing, vestigial or otherwise non-functional. Each flower is either "staminate" (having only functional stamens) and thus "male", or "carpellate" (or "pistillate") (having only functional carpels) and thus "female". If separate staminate and carpellate flowers are always found on the same plant, the species is called monoecious. If separate staminate and carpellate flowers are always found on different plants, the species is called dioecious. A 1995 study found that about 6% of angiosperm species are dioecious, and that 7% of genera contain some dioecious species.
Members of the birch family (Betulaceae) are examples of monoecious plants with unisexual flowers. A mature alder tree (Alnus species) produces long catkins containing only male flowers, each with four stamens and a minute perianth, and separate stalked groups of female flowers, each without a perianth. (See the illustration of Alnus serrulata.)
Most hollies (members of the genus Ilex) are dioecious. Each plant produces either functionally male flowers or functionally female flowers. In Ilex aquifolium (see the illustration), the common European holly, both kinds of flower have four sepals and four white petals; male flowers have four stamens, female flowers usually have four non-functional reduced stamens and a four-celled ovary. Since only female plants are able to set fruit and produce berries, this has consequences for gardeners. Amborella represents the first known group of flowering plants to separate from their common ancestor. It too is dioecious; at any one time, each plant produces either flowers with functional stamens but no carpels, or flowers with a few non-functional stamens and a number of fully functional carpels. However, Amborella plants may change their "sex" over time. In one study, five cuttings from a male plant produced only male flowers when they first flowered, but at their second flowering three switched to producing female flowers.
In extreme cases, all of the parts present in a complete flower may be missing, so long as at least one carpel or one stamen is present. This situation is reached in the female flowers of duckweeds (Lemna), which comprise a single carpel, and in the male flowers of spurges (Euphorbia) which comprise a single stamen.
A species such as Fraxinus excelsior, the common ash of Europe, demonstrates one possible kind of variation. Ash flowers are wind-pollinated and lack petals and sepals. Structurally, the flowers may be bisexual, consisting of two stamens and an ovary, or may be male (staminate), lacking a functional ovary, or female (carpellate), lacking functional stamens. Different forms may occur on the same tree, or on different trees. The Asteraceae (sunflower family), with close to 22,000 species worldwide, have highly modified inflorescences made up of flowers (florets) collected together into tightly packed heads. Heads may have florets of one sexual morphology – all bisexual, all carpellate or all staminate (when they are called homogamous), or may have mixtures of two or more sexual forms (heterogamous). Thus goatsbeards (Tragopogon species) have heads of bisexual florets, like other members of the tribe Cichorieae, whereas marigolds (Calendula species) generally have heads with the outer florets bisexual and the inner florets staminate (male).
Like Amborella, some plants undergo sex-switching. For example, Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) expresses sexual differences at different stages of growth: smaller plants produce all or mostly male flowers; as plants grow larger over the years the male flowers are replaced by more female flowers on the same plant. Arisaema triphyllum thus covers a multitude of sexual conditions in its lifetime: nonsexual juvenile plants, young plants that are all male, larger plants with a mix of both male and female flowers, and large plants that have mostly female flowers. Other plant populations have plants that produce more male flowers early in the year and as plants bloom later in the growing season they produce more female flowers.
The complexity of the morphology of flowers and its variation within populations has led to a rich terminology.
Outcrossing, cross-fertilization or allogamy, in which offspring are formed by the fusion of the gametes of two different plants, is the most common mode of reproduction among higher plants. About 55% of higher plant species reproduce in this way. An additional 7% are partially cross-fertilizing and partially self-fertilizing (autogamy). About 15% produce gametes but are principally self-fertilizing with significant out-crossing lacking. Only about 8% of higher plant species reproduce exclusively by non-sexual means. These include plants that reproduce vegetatively by runners or bulbils, or which produce seeds without embryo fertilization (apomixis). The selective advantage of outcrossing appears to be the masking of deleterious recessive mutations.
The primary mechanism used by flowering plants to ensure outcrossing involves a genetic mechanism known as self-incompatibility. Various aspects of floral morphology promote allogamy. In plants with bisexual flowers, the anthers and carpels may mature at different times, plants being protandrous (with the anthers maturing first) or protogynous (with the carpels mature first). Monoecious species, with unisexual flowers on the same plant, may produce male and female flowers at different times.
Dioecy, the condition of having unisexual flowers on different plants, necessarily results in outcrossing, and might thus be thought to have evolved for this purpose. However, "dioecy has proven difficult to explain simply as an outbreeding mechanism in plants that lack self-incompatibility". Resource-allocation constraints may be important in the evolution of dioecy, for example, with wind-pollination, separate male flowers arranged in a catkin that vibrates in the wind may provide better pollen dispersal. In climbing plants, rapid upward growth may be essential, and resource allocation to fruit production may be incompatible with rapid growth, thus giving an advantage to delayed production of female flowers. Dioecy has evolved separately in many different lineages, and monoecy in the plant lineage correlates with the evolution of dioecy, suggesting that dioecy can evolve more readily from plants that already produce separate male and female flowers.
Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), or banana bacterial wilt (BBW) or enset wilt is a bacterial disease caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum. After being originally identified on a close relative of banana, Ensete ventricosum, in Ethiopia in the 1960s, BXW emanated in Uganda in 2001 affecting all types of banana cultivars. Since then BXW has been diagnosed in Central and East Africa including banana growing regions of: Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda.Of the numerous diseases infecting bananas, BXW alongside banana bunchy top virus has been the most devastating in recent years. Global concern arose over the livelihoods of African banana farmers and the millions relying on bananas as a staple food when the disease was at its worst between the years 2001 and 2005. It was estimated that in Central Uganda from 2001 and 2004, there was a 30-52 % decrease in banana yield due to BXW infection. Although extensive management of the disease outbreaks has helped reduce the impact of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt even today BXW continues to a pose a real problem to the banana farmer of Central and East Africa.Dioecy
Dioecy (Greek: διοικία "two households"; adjective form: dioecious) is a characteristic of a species, meaning that it has distinct male and female individual organisms. Dioecious reproduction is biparental reproduction. Dioecy is one method that excludes self-fertilization and promotes allogamy (outcrossing), and thus tends to reduce the expression of recessive deleterious mutations present in a population. Flowering plants have several other methods of excluding self-fertilization, called self-incompatibility.Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants (plants of the division Magnoliophyta, also called angiosperms). The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs. Flowers may facilitate outcrossing (fusion of sperm and eggs from different individuals in a population) or allow selfing (fusion of sperm and egg from the same flower). Some flowers produce diaspores without fertilization (parthenocarpy). Flowers contain sporangia and are the site where gametophytes develop. Many flowers have evolved to be attractive to animals, so as to cause them to be vectors for the transfer of pollen. After fertilization, the ovary of the flower develops into fruit containing seeds.
In addition to facilitating the reproduction of flowering plants, flowers have long been admired and used by humans to bring beauty to their environment, and also as objects of romance, ritual, religion, medicine and as a source of food.Geitonogamy
Geitonogamy (from Greek geiton (γείτων) = neighbor + gamein (γαμεῖν) = to marry) is a type of self-pollination. Geitonogamous pollination is sometimes distinguished from the fertilizations that can result from it, geitonogamy. If a plant is self-incompatible, geitonogamy can reduce seed production.Geitonogamy is when pollen is exported using a vector (pollinator or wind) out of one flower but only to another flower on the same plant. It is a form of self-fertilization.
In flowering plants, pollen is transferred from a flower to another flower on the same plant, and in animal pollinated systems this is accomplished by a pollinator visiting multiple flowers on the same plant. Geitonogamy is also possible within species that are wind-pollinated, and may actually be a quite common source of self-fertilized seeds in self-compatible species. It also occurs in monoecious gymnosperms. Although geitonogamy is functionally cross-pollination involving a pollinating agent, genetically it is similar to autogamy since the pollen grains come from the same plant.
Monoecious plants like maize show geitonogamy. Geitonogamy is not possible for strictly dioecious plants.Glossary of botanical terms
This glossary of botanical terms is a list of terms relevant to botany and plants in general. Terms of plant morphology are included here as well as at the related Glossary of plant morphology and Glossary of leaf morphology. See also List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names. You can help by adding illustrations that assist an understanding of the terms.Pollination
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.Pollination bags
Pollination bags, sometimes called crossing bags, isolation bags or exclusion bags, are containers made of various different materials for the purpose of controlling pollination for plants.Tepal
A tepal is one of the outer parts of a flower (collectively the perianth). The term is used when these parts cannot easily be classified as either sepals or petals. This may be because the parts of the perianth are undifferentiated (i.e. of very similar appearance), as in Magnolia, or because, although it is possible to distinguish an outer whorl of sepals from an inner whorl of petals, the sepals and petals have similar appearance to one another (as in Lilium). The term was first proposed by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle in 1827 and was constructed by analogy with the terms "petal" and "sepal". (De Candolle used the term perigonium or perigone for the tepals collectively; today this term is used as a synonym for "perianth".)
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