Flower Structure and the Angiosperm Life Cycle
The flower consists of several leaflike structures attached to a specialized region of the stem called the receptacle (Web Figure 1.3.A). Sepals and petals are the most leaflike. Petals have the primary function of attracting insects to serve as pollinators, accounting for their often showy and brightly colored appearance. The stamen is the male sexual structure, and the pistil is the female sexual structure. The pistil is composed of one or more united carpels; the pistil, or in some flowers a whorl of pistils, is sometimes referred to as the gynoecium. The stamen consists of a narrow stalk called the filament and a chambered structure called the anther. The anther contains tissue that gives rise to pollen grains. The pistil consists of the stigma (the tip where pollen lands during pollination), the style (an elongated structure), and the ovary. The ovary, the hollow basal portion of the pistil, completely encloses one or more ovules. Each ovule, in turn, contains an embryo sac, the structure that gives rise to the female gamete, the egg.
|Web Figure 1.3.A Schematic representation of an idealized flower of the angiosperms. (Click image to enlarge.)|
After landing on the stigma, the pollen grain germinates to form a long pollen tube, which penetrates the tissues of the style and ultimately enters the cavity of the ovary, which houses the ovule. Within the ovary, the pollen tube enters the ovule and deposits two haploid sperm cells in the embryo sac (see Web Figure 1.3.B). One sperm cell fuses with the egg to produce the zygote; the other typically fuses with the two polar nuclei to produce a specialized storage tissue termed the endosperm, which provides nutrients to the growing embryo. Endosperm tissue also provides the bulk of the worldrquote s food supply in the form of cereal grains. As in conifers, in angiosperms the outer tissues of the ovule harden into a protective seed coat. Angiosperm seeds have a second layer of protective tissues, the fruit. The fruit consists of the ovary wall and, in some cases, receptacle tissue.
Angiosperms are divided into two major groups, dicotyledons (dicots) and monocotyledons (monocots). This distinction is based primarily on the number of cotyledons, or seed leaves. In addition, the two groups differ with respect to other anatomical features, such as the arrangement of their vascular tissues, and their floral structure.
As the dominant plant group on Earth, and because of their great economic and agricultural importance, angiosperms have been studied much more intensively than other types of plants, and they are discussed extensively in this book. Plant physiologists have focused on a relatively small number of species that represent convenient experimental systems for the study of specific phenomena. Therefore, while we focus on these famous few, it is important to keep in mind the tremendous diversity of form and function that exists within the angiosperms, and the even greater diversity of form and function that is found within the plant kingdom as a whole.