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Plants - Sexuality and Sexual Reproduction. 


Most plants are produced by some form of sexual activity; generally referred to as sexual propagation.  As with animals, there is generally a male and female involved in the reproductive process, but unlike animals – and humans – some plant species can forego the basics of sex and simply ‘grow’ an additional youngster somewhere on their being. The equivalent to a permanent headache!

Plants are also different to most animals, in that in some instance there are distinct male and female plants; sometimes plants that have separate male and female flowers on the same plant; sometimes having flowers which have both male and female parts to the same flower.

It follows that plants have the normal reproductive system parts as do animals, but for the sake of botanical and biological clarity, are given different names – whew! However, the process of producing young is basically the same as in the animal kingdom, though with different methods of application. The very fact that most plants are rooted to the same place for life, makes for some ingenious methods of procreation. 

Sexual Reproduction of Plants

The basics of reproduction are the same with most living things – plants included. Male finds female, deposits sperm – or pollen in this case – which races up a tube; finds an egg and fertilizes it. The egg then develops into a potential offspring and is bought into the plant world as a seed. So, Do Plants Have Feelings?

Gaultheria rosea berries - Pernettya mucronataSeeds differ from ‘babies’ in that they then have to undergo a further process before they can start life as a new plant – germination.  There are many different aspects to germination of seeds, as most gardeners will attest to. If conditions are right, seed will germinate; if they are not, seed will either die – or lay dormant sometimes for hundreds of years. (Most seeds used by gardeners have a lesser viability period.)

Promiscuity in the general sense, can be ascribed to many plant sexual activities, and is generally essential for both the continued presence of certain species and indeed desirable for the gardener, for such promiscuity has produced a wide range of hybrids.

The sexual reproduction activities of those plants which are separately male or female can be described as promiscuous in the scientific sense, in that the males produce the pollen, and are generally unaware of where that pollen ends up. It is a matter for the various insects, other animals and wind which act as carriers of that pollen to a waiting female. The males generally outnumber the females, and as such are well capable of pollinating several females in one go!

In spite of the seeming promiscuous nature of these plants ‘throwing it about’ so to speak, they go to great and complex lengths to ensure that in-breeding and incest even are avoided.

Many gardeners will be aware of the importance of both male and female plants – normally after a purchase of beautiful berrying plants, which then fail to produce the goods in following years. A typical example would be that of the Gaultheria – Pernettya - group of spectacularly berried plants. At the nursery, the grower will have grown one male for many female plants. The females produce the beautiful berries and are quickly sold out in the winter garden centres.  Rarely are the males sold or bought, resulting in ensuing years with boring evergreen Gaultheria – devoid of berries! 

What is a Plant | Plants Main Page  | Berrying Shrubs



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