Monocot: Definition, Function & Examples

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  • 0:00 What is a Monocot?
  • 1:05 What is a Cotyledon?
  • 1:40 The Look of a Monocot
  • 2:58 Where Can I Find Monocots?
  • 3:19 Importance and Function
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrienne Brundage
Monocots are one of the two major types of flowering plants. Find out why these plants are important, and see some common examples, including plants you can find in your own backyard.

What is a Monocot?

Ah, plants. These organisms make up a good portion of the living things on earth and do all manner of important jobs for us. They provide us with food and energy, take carbon dioxide out of the air, recycle nutrients, and sometimes just look pretty.

There are so many plants on earth that scientists have taken to categorizing them, just so it's a little bit easier to study them. The first big category of plants has to do with if they have flowers or not. We then break up the flowering plants into two major groups based on their physical form and the number of leaves developed when the seeds first germinate.

If a plant has one seed leaf, or cotyledon, it falls into the group monocotyledon, or monocot for short. If a plant has two seed leaves, it falls into the group dicotyledon, or dicot for short. Since cotyledons are only present for a short period of time, it's usually much easier to recognize monocots due to their trimerous flowers and leaves with parallel veins.

What is a Cotyledon?

Since it's fundamental to the definition of a monocot, let's talk a bit about the cotyledon. A cotyledon is the first leaf developed by the embryo of a seed plant. These are those first little leaves that you see on the tender plant shoots of spring.

Notice the plant on the left - it looks a little bit like new grass in the spring, doesn't it? In comparison, the plant on the right looks like a growing flower seed that you planted in your garden. The shoot on the left is the cotyledon of the monocot. I bet you know what type of plant your grass is now, right? Yep, it's a monocot.

The Look of a Monocot

Let's be honest, though. How often are you crouched on the ground waiting for a seed to emerge? Probably not very often. So how is it possible to tell a monocot from a dicot when looking at mature plants? Luckily, the number of cotyledons is not the only physical feature of plants.

Monocots have a trimerous flower, or a flower with parts in multiples of three. You can simply count the petals of a flower, and if you can divide the total number by three, you probably have a monocot. As you can see in this image of a lily, there are six petals in total, a multiple of three. Lilies are a type of monocot. In fact, many big, showy flowers like lilies, daffodils, bluebells, irises, orchids, and tulips are monocots.

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