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Biology LibreTexts

7: The Origin of Trees and Seeds

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  • Competition over resources (primarily water and sun light) always drove plant evolution. The most logical way to escape competition was to enlarge the body. But if only primary tissues are available, this growth is strictly limited. Without secondary thickening, the trunk will easily break under the weight of growing crown, and the plant will die. This is easy to see in plants which still dare to develop the tree-like habit without secondary growth: tree ferns and palms. In addition, tree ferns have no bark which limits their distribution to the really wet places. On the other hand, thickening of stem will allow for branching, and branching allow for even bigger aboveground body. But then, new problems associated with both size and life cycle will pose another great challenge.

    • 7.1: Secondary Stem
      In many seed plants, secondary growth begins in their first year within the stem and continues on for many more years. These plants are classified as woody. They develop secondary tissues like periderm and wood, and even tertiary structures like bark.
    • 7.2: Branching Shoot
      Secondary stem allows for extensive branching. In seed plants, branching is based on the axial buds. These buds are located in axils of leaves and develop into secondary shoots. There are two main types of branching: monopodial and sympodial
    • 7.3: Life Forms
      Thickening and branching change the appearance of plant. The most ancient classification employ both branching and thickening and divide plants into trees, shrubs and herbs. This approach was the first classification of life forms. Life forms tell not about evolution, but about how plant lives. We still use this classification. With some modifications, it plays a significant role in gardening.
    • 7.4: Modified Shoot
      Like leaves and roots, shoots and stems also have modifications. Some examples are rhizomes, stolons, tubers, bulbs, corms, thorns, spines, cladophylls, and stem traps. Rhizomes (example: ginger, Zingiber) are underground stems that burrow into the ground just below the soil surface, and usually tend to have small, scale-like leaves that are not photosynthetic. Buds from the axils of the leaves make new branches that will grow to become aboveground shoots.
    • 7.5: Origin of the Seed
      When plants developed the secondary growth, the almost unlimited perspectives opened for enlarging their body. However, these giants faced a new problem.
    • 7.6: Spermatophyta - Seed Plants
      Seed plants consist of approximately 1,000 species of non-angiosperms (gymnosperms) and about 250,000 species of angiosperms. They have a sporic life-cycle with sporophyte predominance, and seeds. The gametophyte is reduced to cells inside the ovule or pollen grain. Males have a minimum number of cells being three and females being four. The antheridia are absent and in flowering plants (Angiospermae) and Gnetopsida the archegonia are also reduced.

    Thumbnail: A female Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri) cone. Image used with permission (Cc By 2.5; Geographer).