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seed information

Seed information

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  • seed – Children’s Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11)
  • seed – Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

Learn how the angiosperm and gymnosperm plants store their seeds

Seed, the characteristic reproductive body of both angiosperms (flowering plants) and gymnosperms (e.g., conifers, cycads, and ginkgos). Essentially, a seed consists of a miniature undeveloped plant (the embryo), which, alone or in the company of stored food for its early development after germination, is surrounded by a protective coat (the testa). Frequently small in size and making negligible demands upon their environment, seeds are eminently suited to perform a wide variety of functions the relationships of which are not always obvious: multiplication, perennation (surviving seasons of stress such as winter), dormancy (a state of arrested development), and dispersal. Pollination and the “seed habit” are considered the most important factors responsible for the overwhelming evolutionary success of the flowering plants, which number more than 300,000 species.

magnolia fruit and seed

The superiority of dispersal by means of seeds over the more primitive method involving single-celled spores, lies mainly in two factors: the stored reserve of nutrient material that gives the new generation an excellent growing start and the seed’s multicellular structure. The latter factor provides ample opportunity for the development of adaptations for dispersal, such as plumes for wind dispersal, barbs, and others.

seed dispersal

Economically, seeds are important primarily because they are sources of a variety of foods—for example, the cereal grains, such as wheat, rice, and corn (maize); the seeds of beans, peas, peanuts, soybeans, almonds, sunflowers, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts. Other useful products provided by seeds are abundant. Oils for cooking, margarine production, painting, and lubrication are available from the seeds of flax, rape, cotton, soybean, poppy, castor bean, coconut, sesame, safflower, sunflower, and various cereal grains. Essential oils are obtained from such sources as juniper “berries,” used in gin manufacture. Stimulants are obtained from such sources as the seeds of coffee, kola, guarana, and cocoa. Spices—from mustard and nutmeg seeds; from the aril (“mace”) covering the nutmeg seed; from the seeds and fruits of anise, cumin, caraway, dill, vanilla, black pepper, allspice, and others—form a large group of economic products.

caraway seeds

castor bean seeds

The nature of seeds

Angiosperm seeds

In the typical flowering plant, or angiosperm, seeds are formed from bodies called ovules contained in the ovary, or basal part of the female plant structure, the pistil. The mature ovule contains in its central part a region called the nucellus that in turn contains an embryo sac with eight nuclei, each with one set of chromosomes (i.e., they are haploid nuclei). The two nuclei near the centre are referred to as polar nuclei; the egg cell, or oosphere, is situated near the micropylar (“open”) end of the ovule.

flower anatomy

With very few exceptions (e.g., the dandelion), development of the ovule into a seed is dependent upon fertilization, which in turn follows pollination. Pollen grains that land on the receptive upper surface (stigma) of the pistil will germinate, if they are of the same species, and produce pollen tubes, each of which grows down within the style (the upper part of the pistil) toward an ovule. The pollen tube has three haploid nuclei, one of them, the so-called vegetative, or tube, nucleus seems to direct the operations of the growing structure. The other two, the generative nuclei, can be thought of as nonmotile sperm cells. After reaching an ovule and breaking out of the pollen tube tip, one generative nucleus unites with the egg cell to form a diploid zygote (i.e., a fertilized egg with two complete sets of chromosomes, one from each parent). The zygote undergoes a limited number of divisions and gives rise to an embryo. The other generative nucleus fuses with the two polar nuclei to produce a triploid (three sets of chromosomes) nucleus, which divides repeatedly before cell-wall formation occurs. This process gives rise to the triploid endosperm, a nutrient tissue that contains a variety of storage materials—such as starch, sugars, fats, proteins, hemicelluloses, and phytate (a phosphate reserve).

The events just described constitute what is called the double-fertilization process, one of the characteristic features of all flowering plants. In the orchids and in some other plants with minute seeds that contain no reserve materials, endosperm formation is completely suppressed. In other cases it is greatly reduced, but the reserve materials are present elsewhere—e.g., in the cotyledons, or seed leaves, of the embryo, as in beans, lettuce, and peanuts, or in a tissue derived from the nucellus, the perisperm, as in coffee. Other seeds, such as those of beets, contain both perisperm and endosperm. The seed coat, or testa, is derived from the one or two protective integuments of the ovule. The ovary, in the simplest case, develops into a fruit. In many plants, such as grasses and lettuce, the outer integument and ovary wall are completely fused, so seed and fruit form one entity; such seeds and fruits can logically be described together as “dispersal units,” or diaspores. More often, however, the seeds are discrete units attached to the placenta on the inside of the fruit wall through a stalk, or funiculus.

The hilum of a liberated seed is a small scar marking its former place of attachment. The short ridge (raphe) that sometimes leads away from the hilum is formed by the fusion of seed stalk and testa. In many seeds, the micropyle of the ovule also persists as a small opening in the seed coat. The embryo, variously located in the seed, may be very small (as in buttercups) or may fill the seed almost completely (as in roses and plants of the mustard family). It consists of a root part, or radicle, a prospective shoot (plumule or epicotyl), one or more cotyledons (one or two in flowering plants, several in Pinus and other gymnosperms), and a hypocotyl, which is a region that connects radicle and plumule. A classification of seeds can be based on size and position of the embryo and on the proportion of embryo to storage tissue; the possession of either one or two cotyledons is considered crucial in recognizing two main groups of flowering plants, the monocotyledons and the eudicotyledons.

Seed, the characteristic reproductive body of both angiosperms and gymnosperms. Essentially, a seed consists of a miniature undeveloped plant (the embryo), which, alone or in the company of stored food, is surrounded by a protective coat. Learn more about seed characteristics, dispersal, and germination.

Seed Packet Information: Interpreting The Seed Packet Directions

Many people prefer to start flower and vegetable gardens from seeds. Some like the varieties that are available while others simply enjoy the cost savings that seed planting provides. While understanding seed packet info may seem confusing, correctly interpreting the seed packet directions is fundamental to plant growth and whether or not your seeds will successfully thrive in your garden.

Flower and vegetable seed packets provide specific instructions that when properly followed, will result in healthy growth and production.

Interpreting the Seed Packet Directions

For help with understanding seed packet info, you should be aware of each item listed on the seed packet labels. For the majority of flower and vegetable seed packets, you will find the following seed packet information:

Description – Seed packet information generally contains a written description of the plant and whether or not it is a perennial, biennial or annual. The plant description will also include the habit of the plant, such as whether or not it climbs, is bushy or mounding as well as height and spread. The description may also indicate if a trellis is needed or if the plant will thrive in a container or does better in the ground.

Photo – Seed packets display the fully mature flower or vegetable, which can be very enticing to flower and vegetable lovers. The picture gives a good idea of what to expect from a certain species of plant. Photos are especially useful if the plant is one that you are unfamiliar with.

Best-By Date – Flower and vegetable seed packets will usually have a date when the seed was packed and is stamped on the back. It is best to use seeds the same year they were packed for better results. The older the seed is, the poorer the germination will be.

Packed For Year – The packet will also have the year the seeds were packed for and may also include the guaranteed germination rate for that year.

Planting Directions – Seed packet labels normally state the growing region for the plant and the best conditions for optimal growth. In addition, directions will generally explain how best to plant the seed, whether it should be started indoors or soaked to speed germination. Spacing, light and water requirements are usually explained under planting directions as well.

Seed Number or Weight – Depending on the size of the seed, the seed label may also indicate the number of seeds included in the package or the weight of the seeds.

Interpreting the seed packet directions and other pertinent seed packet information can make your flower or vegetable gardening experience an easier and much more fulfilling one.

Many people prefer to start flower and vegetable gardens from seeds. While understanding seed packet info may seem confusing, correctly interpreting the seed packet directions is fundamental. Learn more here.