Plants substantiate their name as primary or universal producers. Providing us humans with life essentials such as clothing, shelter, food, and oxygen, they are indeed nature’s gift. As in the case of all other living beings, plants respire, vegetate, germinate, defecate and produce. In 1884, it was Ralph B. Strassburger who first discovered the fertilisation process in flowering plants. Here, let us talk in detail regarding the fertilisation process in plants.
Fertilization in plants is a process in which they undergo sexual reproduction in consequence of pollination and germination. In a physicochemical process, the male gametes (known as pollen) fuse with the female gametes (known as ovum) form diploid zygote after carpal pollinates. The entire process happens in the zygote which later germinates into a seed. During the process, what happens is male gametes are transferred into female reproductive organs through pollinators (butterflies, birds, honey bees, bats, and flower beetles). This results in an embryo being formed in a seed. Flowers are the reproductive organs of angiosperms and reproduce in an entirely different method.
The process of fertilisation in plants can be categorised into four major stages.
Pollination: In this, the male gametes covered in pollen are carried away by water, wind, or through other agents such as animals and insects. Then, the pollen is made to land on the stigma of the plant. This process is called pollination.
Germination: This is a process in which the pollen tube matures in a matter of minutes and enters the egg cell. The tube serves as a passage for the pollen grain to reach the egg.
Ovule Penetration: The pollen tube which contains the sperm penetrates into the embryo sag or ovule.
Fertilisation: After successfully penetrating into the ovule, the sperms travel through the tube to fertilise the egg. Most flower-bearing plants undergo double fertilisation in which the polar nuclei and egg in the ovule are fertilised.
Post fertilisation, the zygote cells divide and develop into an embryo which can also be termed as a developing plant. The embryo enveloped in a seed capsule lay dormant till favourable environmental conditions prevail to help it develop into a plant.
During the process of fertilisation in gymnosperms or seed-bearing plants, the seeds grow on both sides of the leaves or scales or develop cones or prevail at the end of short stalks. The seed remains confined in the ovary.
In flower-bearing plants or angiosperms, an additional fertilisation process occurs in the central cell. Two sperm cells get released from either one of the pollen grains. The first cell fuses with the zygote for egg fertilisation and the second fuses with the twin polar nuclei to produce endosperm.
As we said above, fertilisation happens as a result of the fusion of female and male gametes. For fusion to take place, both the female and male pollen grains reach the stigma's surface. This process is termed pollination. Once the pollen is transferred to the stigma, it undergoes germination, passing through the style to enter the ovule. The pollen or the microspores has two cells namely generative cell and pollen tube cell. This pollen tube cell develops a pollen tube by which generative cells navigate.
For pollen tubes to germinate, it requires oxygen, water, and several other chemical signals. While pollen passes through style to reach the ovule or embryo sac, it is the tissue of the style which supports the growth of the pollen tube. During the entire process, in case the generative cell has not yet ruptured into two cells, it breaks down into two sperm cells. The pollen is aided by the chemical secretion of synergids in the embryo sac as it penetrates into the ovule through the micropyle.
One sperm cell from the sperm cells germinates the egg cell to form a diploid zygote. The remaining sperm cells undergo fusion with the polar nuclei to form a triploid cell which produces an endosperm. These twin fertilisation events occurring in angiosperms or flowering plants are termed double fertilisation. Once the fertilisation process is over, it is not possible for another sperm to enter. The fertilised embryo sac produces the seed while the ovary’s tissues become the fruit that envelops the seed.
The process in which gametes of two different species – male and female cross-fertilise is known as allogamy. There is also autogamy or self-fertilisation when dual gametes from a single individual fuse. This is commonly seen in hermaphrodites such as certain plants and flatworms.
There are three types of fertilisation, categorised mainly on the way in which pollen tubes enter the ovule or embryo sac.
The most common form of fertilisation happens in flowering plants or angiosperms. In this form, a pollen tube reaches the ovule through a micropyle. A common example is lilies.
This form of fertilisation happens in a species of plants namely casuarina. Here, the pollen tube permeates into the ovule through chalaza rather than entering through micropyle. This is not very common. Examples would be Casuarina, Betula and Juglans.
This form of fertilisation happens in cucurbit plants including bitter gourd, ridge gourd, various other gourd plants and pumpkin. In this form, a pollen tube passes through integuments or its middle part to penetrate into the ovule.
Double Fertilisation happens when a single female gamete undergoes fusion with two male gametes. Here, one of the sperm cells undergo fusion with the zygote while the other fuse with the two nuclei to produce endosperm. The entire angiosperm plants go through the process of double fertilisation.
What Makes Double Fertilisation Significant is
In double fertilisation, two products are formed
Increases the feasibility of the seeds of the angiosperm
The plant will have a greater chance to survive and polyembryony (the chance to form more than a single embryo from one seed or a single fertile ovum)
Double fertilisation results in an endosperm which nourishes the growing embryo
The two male gametes which are produced by pollen grains into effective use.
These are the different types of fertilization in plants and their processes. Understand the concept of fertilization to know the difference between these types of fertilization.
What are the different modes of reproduction in plants ?
Though fertilisation or sexual reproduction is the most common method of propagation for plants as well as animals. But in plants there are other modes of propagation as well such as budding, fragmentation, and vegetative propagation. Cutting, grafting and layering are some of the vegetative propagation method of plants.
What is double fertilisation ?
Reproduction is a natural process in which one male gamete fuses with a female gamete to form zygote. In the case of plants the male gamete is the pollen grains and the female gamete is the egg present in the ovule inside the flowers. In case of all angiosperm plants, the female gametophyte fuses with two male gametes. One of the male gametes fuses with the egg cell whereas the other one fuses with diploid secondary nucleus.
What is self-fertilisation ?
The fusion of dual gametes from a single individual is known as self fertilisation. This is commonly seen in hermaphrodites such as certain plants and flatworms.