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30.3.3: Diversity of Angiosperms

  • Page ID
    • Boundless
    • Boundless
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    Angiosperm diversity is divided into two main groups, monocot and dicots, based primarily on the number of cotyledons they possess.

    Learning Objectives
    • Explain how angiosperm diversity is classified

    Key Points

    • Angiosperm are flowering plants that are classified based on characteristics that include (but are not limited to) cotyledon structure, pollen grains, as well as flower and vascular tissue arrangement.
    • Basal angiosperms, classified separately, contain features found in both monocots and dicots, as they are believed to have originated before the separation of these two main groups.
    • Monocots contain a single cotyledon and have veins that run parallel to the length of their leaves; their flowers are arranged in three to six-fold symmetry.
    • Dicots have flowers arranged in whorls, two cotyledons, and a vein arrangement that forms networks within their leaves.
    • Monocots do not contain any true woody tissue while dicots can be herbacious or woody and have vascular tissue that forms a ring in the stem.

    Key Terms

    • dicot: a plant whose seedlings have two cotyledons; a dicotyledon
    • angiosperm: a plant whose ovules are enclosed in an ovary
    • monocot: one of two major groups of flowering plants (or angiosperms) that are traditionally recognized; seedlings typically have one cotyledon (seed-leaf)
    • cotyledon: the leaf of the embryo of a seed-bearing plant; after germination it becomes the first leaves of the seedling
    • basal angiosperm: the first flowering plants to diverge from the ancestral angiosperm, including a single species of shrub from New Caledonia, water lilies and some other aquatic plants, and woody aromatic plants

    Diversity of Angiosperms

    Angiosperms are classified in a single phylum: the Anthophyta. Modern angiosperms appear to be a monophyletic group, which means that they originated from a single ancestor. Flowering plants are divided into two major groups according to the structure of the cotyledons and pollen grains, among others. Monocots include grasses and lilies while eudicots or dicots form a polyphyletic group. However, many species exhibit characteristics that belong to either group; as such, the classification of a plant as a monocot or a eudicot is not always clearly evident. Basal angiosperms are a group of plants that are believed to have branched off before the separation into monocots and eudicots because they exhibit traits from both groups. They are categorized separately in many classification schemes. The Magnoliidae (magnolia trees, laurels, and water lilies) and the Piperaceae (peppers) belong to the basal angiosperm group.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Examples of basal angiosperms: The (a) common spicebush belongs to the Laurales, the same family as cinnamon and bay laurel. The fruit of (b) the Piper nigrum plant is black pepper, the main product that was traded along spice routes. Notice the small, unobtrusive, clustered flowers. (c) Lotus flowers, Nelumbo nucifera, have been cultivated since ancient times for their ornamental value; the root of the lotus flower is eaten as a vegetable. The red seeds of (d) a magnolia tree, characteristic of the final stage, are just starting to appear.

    Basal Angiosperms

    Examples of basal angiosperms include the Magnoliidae, Laurales, Nymphaeales, and the Piperales. Members in these groups all share traits from both monocot and dicot groups. The Magnoliidae are represented by the magnolias: tall trees bearing large, fragrant flowers that have many parts and are considered archaic. Laurel trees produce fragrant leaves and small, inconspicuous flowers. The Laurales grow mostly in warmer climates and are small trees and shrubs. Familiar plants in this group include the bay laurel, cinnamon, spice bush, and avocado tree. The Nymphaeales are comprised of the water lilies, lotus, and similar plants; all species thrive in freshwater biomes and have leaves that float on the water surface or grow underwater. Water lilies are particularly prized by gardeners and have graced ponds and pools for thousands of years. The Piperales are a group of herbs, shrubs, and small trees that grow in the tropical climates. They have small flowers without petals that are tightly arranged in long spikes. Many species are the source of prized fragrance or spices; for example, the berries of Piper nigrum are the familiar black peppercorns that are used to flavor many dishes.


    Plants in the monocot group are primarily identified as such by the presence of a single cotyledon in the seedling. Other anatomical features shared by monocots include veins that run parallel to the length of the leaves and flower parts that are arranged in a three- or six-fold symmetry. True woody tissue is rarely found in monocots. In palm trees, vascular and parenchyma tissues produced by the primary and secondary thickening of meristems form the trunk. The pollen from the first angiosperms was monosulcate, containing a single furrow or pore through the outer layer. This feature is still seen in the modern monocots. Vascular tissue of the stem is not arranged in any particular pattern. The root system is mostly adventitious and unusually positioned, with no major tap root. The monocots include familiar plants such as the true lilies (which are the origin of their alternate name: Liliopsida), orchids, grasses, and palms. Many important crops are monocots, such as rice and other cereals, corn, sugar cane, and tropical fruits like bananas and pineapples.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Monocots and Dicots: major crops of the world: The world’s major crops are flowering plants. (a) Rice, (b) wheat, and (c) bananas are monocots, while (d) cabbage, (e) beans, and (f) peaches are dicots.


    Eudicots, or true dicots, are characterized by the presence of two cotyledons in the developing shoot. Veins form a network in leaves, while flower parts come in four, five, or many whorls. Vascular tissue forms a ring in the stem whereas in monocots, vascular tissue is scattered in the stem. Eudicots can be herbaceous (like grasses), or produce woody tissues. Most eudicots produce pollen that is trisulcate or triporate, with three furrows or pores. The root system is usually anchored by one main root developed from the embryonic radicle. Eudicots comprise two-thirds of all flowering plants.

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