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Angiosperms: The Flowering Plants

Kelly Biddle, Derrick Arrington, Shelby DeVore
  • Author
    Kelly Biddle

    Sr. Kelly Biddle, PhD, OP, has taught at both the community college and high school level for over 11 years. After earning degrees in both English and Biochemistry from Rice University in Houston, Texas, she went on to earn her doctorate in Molecular and Environmental Plant Sciences from Texas A&M University. Sr. Kelly has also taught ESL and GED and designed educational computer games.

  • Instructor
    Derrick Arrington

    Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

  • Expert Contributor
    Shelby DeVore

    Shelby has a BS in Animal Science and a MS in Agriculture and Natural Resources. She taught high school and college animal science and biology courses for over 5 years.

Understand what angiosperm is by learning the angiosperm definition. Discover the characteristics of angiosperms and some examples of angiosperm plants. Updated: 09/30/2021

What is Angiosperm?

Passion Flower, Example of an Angiosperm

A very unusual looking flower with several big purple petals forming a large circle, dozens of thing, twisting, hair-like petals arrayed on top of this, a ring of five dangling anthers, and one large, tri-pointed stigma in the middle.

The most complex and evolved forms of plant life are the angiosperms, or the flowering plants. Angiosperms are also the most common form of plant life on Earth today — there are over 270,000 different species of flowering plants (in contrast, there are only approximately 5,500 species of mammals on Earth). Most of the plants on Earth — over 80% — are angiosperms (the rest are a mixture of gymnosperms, bryophytes, and seedless vascular plants (ferns)).

The defining feature of all angiosperms are their flowers; all angiosperms make seeds using this specialized reproductive structure. All angiosperm seeds are protected in either a fruit or ovary. The only other type of plants that can make seed is the gymnosperms, which are non-flowering plants with "naked-seeds;" i.e. seeds not enclosed in a protective fruit, shell, or casing. Examples of gymnosperms include all evergreen conifers and pine trees, cycads, and gingko trees.

Structure of Angiosperm

Structure of Angiosperms

A drawing of a flowering bush and its roots.  The bush is labeled "shoot system" and the roots are labeled "root system."

The two main parts of all vascular plants, including angiosperms, are the root system and the shoot system.

  • Root system — the parts of the plant that lie under the soil.
    • Functions:
      • Anchor the plant
      • Absorb water and nutrients from the soil
      • Transport water and nutrients to the rest of the plant (via the vascular system)
  • Shoot system — all parts of the plant above the soil.
    • Functions:
      • Stems & Branches: Give height and breadth to the plant to ensure its leaves are exposed to as much sunlight as possible.
      • Leaves: Conduct photosynthesis, making food for the rest of the plant.
      • Flowers: Reproduction (see below)

Both the root and shoot systems contain the plant's vascular system, the phloem and xylem tissues that conduct water, sugar, and nutrients throughout the plant (i.e. the plant's circulatory system).

Angiosperms: Definition

Angiosperms are the largest group of plants on Earth. There are approximately 270,000 known species alive today. There's probably one nearby right now. Angiosperms include all plants that have flowers and account for approximately 80% of all known living plants.

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Characteristics of Angiosperms

Angiosperm Anatomy

A flower is shown, with the petals, sepals (small green leaf-like structures at the base of the flower), anthers (male parts that produce the pollen), pistil (large female part in the center), and ovary (swelling at the base of the pistil containing ovules, which will become seeds) labeled.

Angiosperms have several unique characteristics and anatomical features that separate them from other plants. These include:

  • All angiosperms have flowers that act as reproductive organs. All the various parts of the flower work together to ensure the production and survival of the angiosperm's offspring, so its genes get passed to the next generation.
  • Angiosperm flowers usually have multiple stamen, which are the male reproductive parts.
  • The stamen produce small pollen grains. A plant's pollen is the male gamete; it is equivalent to plant sperm. The pollen spread a plant's genetic information from flower to flower.
  • Most angiosperm flowers also have large, bright petals to attract pollinators — animals (usually insects) that carry pollen from one flower to another.
  • The female part of the flower is the pistil, which is where the pollen will land to pollinate the flower. Below the pistil is the ovary, which contains the ovules.
  • The ovules will develop into the seeds of the angiosperm. As they mature, the ovary becomes a fruit or seed pod protecting the developing seeds until they are ready to sprout into new offspring plants.
  • The angiosperm flower has carpels at its base which protect the ovary and the developing ovules.
  • All angiosperm seeds contain an endosperm, a vital adaptation that provides energy for the growing seedling while it emerges from the seed and grows out of the soil.

Example of an angiosperm
Carpel of Broomrape plant

Characteristics

Angiosperms are able to grow in a variety of habitats. They can grow as trees, shrubs, bushes, herbs, and small flowering plants. Some of the characteristics of angiosperms include:

  • All angiosperms have flowers at some stage in their life. The flowers serve as the reproductive organs for the plant, providing them a means of exchanging genetic information.
  • Angiosperms have small pollen grains that spread genetic information from flower to flower. These grains are much smaller than the gametophytes, or reproductive cells, used by non-flowering plants. This small size allows the process of fertilization to occur quicker in the flowers of angiosperms and makes them more efficient at reproducing.
  • All angiosperms have stamens. Stamens are the reproductive structures found in flowers that produce the pollen grains that carry the male genetic information.
  • Angiosperms have much smaller female reproductive parts than non-flowering plants, allowing them to produce seeds more quickly.
  • Angiosperms have carpels that enclose developing seeds that may turn into a fruit.
  • A great advantage for angiosperms is the production of endosperm. Endosperm is a material that forms after fertilization and serves as a highly nutritional food source for the developing seed and seedling.

Examples

Angiosperms come in a variety of forms. Some common examples of angiosperms include magnolia trees, roses, tulips, and tomatoes. Magnolia trees can be found towering all throughout the southern United States. These trees are prime examples of angiosperms. They are large trees growing up to 40 feet tall. Their large, impressive flowers are used to attract pollinators and as a means of reproduction.

Magnolia tree
Picture of a Magnolia tree.

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Video Transcript

Angiosperms: Definition

Angiosperms are the largest group of plants on Earth. There are approximately 270,000 known species alive today. There's probably one nearby right now. Angiosperms include all plants that have flowers and account for approximately 80% of all known living plants.

Example of an angiosperm
Carpel of Broomrape plant

Characteristics

Angiosperms are able to grow in a variety of habitats. They can grow as trees, shrubs, bushes, herbs, and small flowering plants. Some of the characteristics of angiosperms include:

  • All angiosperms have flowers at some stage in their life. The flowers serve as the reproductive organs for the plant, providing them a means of exchanging genetic information.
  • Angiosperms have small pollen grains that spread genetic information from flower to flower. These grains are much smaller than the gametophytes, or reproductive cells, used by non-flowering plants. This small size allows the process of fertilization to occur quicker in the flowers of angiosperms and makes them more efficient at reproducing.
  • All angiosperms have stamens. Stamens are the reproductive structures found in flowers that produce the pollen grains that carry the male genetic information.
  • Angiosperms have much smaller female reproductive parts than non-flowering plants, allowing them to produce seeds more quickly.
  • Angiosperms have carpels that enclose developing seeds that may turn into a fruit.
  • A great advantage for angiosperms is the production of endosperm. Endosperm is a material that forms after fertilization and serves as a highly nutritional food source for the developing seed and seedling.

Examples

Angiosperms come in a variety of forms. Some common examples of angiosperms include magnolia trees, roses, tulips, and tomatoes. Magnolia trees can be found towering all throughout the southern United States. These trees are prime examples of angiosperms. They are large trees growing up to 40 feet tall. Their large, impressive flowers are used to attract pollinators and as a means of reproduction.

Magnolia tree
Picture of a Magnolia tree.

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Angiosperms Research Prompts

Research Prompt 1

Some angiosperms rely heavily on the fruits to disperse their seeds. Research the following angiosperms and how the plant disperses seeds: impatiens, witch hazel, and touch-me-nots. Compare the differences between the methods of seed dispersal between the plants. How are they different? How are they the same? Is one method more effective than the other methods?

Research Prompt 2

Angiosperms are pollinated by water, wind, insects and animals. Research how the following angiosperms are pollinated: oak tree, tomato plant, and tulips. Do any of these plants use more than one type of pollination?

Research Prompt 3

Angiosperms are flowering plants. There are three different life patterns of angiosperms: annuals, biennials, and perennials. Research the three life patterns of angiosperms. What are the differences between these angiosperm life patterns? What are some examples of each type of angiosperm?

Research Prompt 4

Angiosperms can be found in almost every terrestrial habitat. They can be found in the Arctic tundra, in deserts, wetlands, and even the cracks of urban sidewalks. Research more information about angiosperms and explain why they are the dominant form of plant life in most terrestrial ecosystems. What advantages do they have over gymnosperms that makes them more dominant?

What are two examples of angiosperms?

All flowering plants are angiosperms. Examples of angiosperms include

  • Roses
  • Pecan trees
  • Daisies
  • Passion Flower Vines
  • Orange trees
  • Bluebonnets
  • Wheat

What is meant by angiosperm and gymnosperm?

Angiosperms are plants that produce flowers and whose seeds are protected by fruits, shells, or seed pods. Examples include roses, apple trees, and corn.

In contrast, gymnosperms do not have flowers and produce "naked-seeds" (seeds not protected by an outer casing). Examples of gymnosperms include conifers (e.g. pine trees and sequoia trees), cycads, and gingkoes.

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