Angiosperm lifecycles – sounds a bit intimidating if you’re not an aspiring biology teacher. No need to worry. Let’s break it down with some definitions and easy-to-understand examples. Before long, you might even become a neighborhood expert at spotting angiosperms and their different stages throughout life.
What Is an Angiosperm?
First, let’s define what we’re looking at. An angiosperm is a botany term that describes a plant that “ has flowers and produces seeds enclosed within a carpel.” Still confused? Angiosperms are a large group that delineates many familiar herbaceous plants, including shrubs, grasses, and most trees. So, while you may not have realized it until this very moment, angiosperms are all around us in the world, cycling through life in some really cool ways.
A lifecycle is a bit more self-explanatory, but just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s touch base on what scientists, students, and hobbyists mean when they use “lifecycle” in terms of biology and botany. A lifecycle is the series of changes that occur during an organism’s lifespan. Human lifecycles (which you are probably most familiar with through your own daily, visceral experience) include infancy, losing your baby teeth, menstruation, reproduction, and old age, to name a few stages. As it happens, all organisms around us are going through their own lifecycles (this becomes especially obvious if you forget a bushel of broccoli in the back of the fridge) and it can be fascinating to dig into in order to understand the full process behind so many things that make our lives beautiful and abundant, and are critical to the environmental health of the planet.
A beloved flower for its vibrant color and sweet smell, roses are a common symbol of love and romance throughout human history. More than just a symbol, a rose is a living organism and an angiosperm with a whole lifecycle before it is harvested and delivered to your sweetheart. Roses are perennial, which means that they are able to grow, flower, and seed for many years. In the fall and winter, they die back into their roots. Then, they resurrecting for us to enjoy in the spring. An easy to understand progression for a rose bush will probably strike you as very intuitive: seeds grow into plants which produce buds, which bloom into flowers. The flowers are then pollinated by worker bees and other helpful animals, which then fertilize the ovule of the flower with pollen, which produces more seeds for more plants, and more beautiful roses.
Tomatoes can be traced by to the Andes mountains, where they were then spread and migrated up through Central America and eventually conquered pallets and cuisines across the globe due to their delicious succulent taste.
Nowadays, they are generally grown as annuals. Planted seeds will hopefully germinate within a few weeks with the correct soil conditions and sunlight. Similar to roses, the seeds will sprout into stalks, which will bud and flower with yellow petals. Fruiting will usually occur within 45 – 80 days. Inside the fruit – you guessed it – are more seeds for next year’s crop. And thus, the lifecycle begins again.
Similar to the tomato, corn has traveled the world. It has influenced the traditional cuisine of many disparate cultures around the globe. Indigenous to the Americas, the life cycle of this crop can be complicated or easy to understand. It just depends on how deep you want to go. We’ll keep it light and easy for now.
Corn is a particularly interesting plant because as certain aspects of its lifecycle are growing and developing, other elements are visibly dying. Corn experts acknowledge nine stages of corn’s lifecycle. They include emergence, 2-leaf stage, 5-leaf stage, 8-leaf stage, 12-leaf stage, 16-leaf stage, pollination, and dent. Simplified into larger categories, you can look at it as having two distinct stages: vegetative growth and reproductive development. Without both of these stages, the plant will not be able to grow into the future. There are a lot of online sources to get deeper into the nitty-gritty of these golden rods of deliciousness. There are many innovative technologies that explore how corn might be used in the future. Something new to think about the next time you dive into a buttery pile of freshly-popped popcorn!
Yes, everybody’s favorite & entirely edible weed is also an angiosperm! These sunshine blossoms can live up to 13 years if left undisturbed. Part of why they are so pervasive, even in places where people have tried everything to rid their lawns of unwanted weeds, is that dandelions have a persistent, natural seed bank. These angiosperms are perennial, with strong taproots. Seedlings usually emerge anywhere between March and October – a really wide range compared to many other plants. The plants bloom into their distinct yellow hues, and about 9-12 days later, their seeds are ripe for sowing, once again. Dandelions reproduce vegetatively and through seed. Seeds have been found up to 50m away from their parent plant due to wind.
Now that you know what angiosperms are, there’s no need to be intimidated. Understanding what’s going on around us can add incredible depth to our experience in the world. Paying close attention to the lifecycles of the angiosperms around you can be a radical art of witnessing and appreciating. What have you noticed in nature lately? What lifecycles do you appreciate observing in the natural world around you?
Featured Image via blickpixel from Pixabay