Cotyledon: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 What Is A Cotyledon?
  • 0:35 Function Of Cotyledon
  • 1:00 Types Of Cotyledon
  • 2:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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.

Did you know that the seed of a plant is made of multiple parts? In this lesson, we will examine the cotyledon of a seed to gain an understanding of what they are and how they function for the new plant.

What Is a Cotyledon?

A cotyledon is part of the embryo within the seed of a plant. Often when the seed germinates, or begins to grow, the cotyledon may become the first leaves of the seedling. Botanists use the number of cotyledons present in the seed of a plant as a means of classification. Monocots are seeds that have only one cotyledon, while dicots are plants with two cotyledons. The cotyledons are formed during the process of embryogenesis along with the roots and shoots of the plant prior to germination.

Function of Cotyledon

In dicot plants, the cotyledons are photosynthetic and function like leaves. The cotyledons are the first part of the plant to emerge from the soil. Some cotyledons last only days after growing from the soil and give way for other plant growth, while some cotyledons can last for years. The cotyledons are important for the new plant as it begins to grow because they contain the stored food reserves from the seed to give the plant its initial burst of energy to grow.

Types of Cotyledon

Botanists typically classify cotyledons as epigeal or hypogeal. Epigeal cotyledons expand after the germination of the seed, rise above the ground, and become photosynthetic. Hypogeal cotyledons remain below the ground after they emerge from the seed and do not become photosynthetic. Hypogeal cotyledons typically serve as a food storage organ, providing nourishment for the growing plant.

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