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What Is The Epicotyl?
The epicotyl is a part of a seedling, the point along the embryonic shoot (the stem from which everything grows) just above the cotyledons (the seed leaves) that ends with the plumule (the growth that becomes the first true leaves). Epicotyls are found in angiosperms (or flowering plants). The epicotyl is responsible for breaking the surface of the soil in hypogeal germination. Let's take a closer look at the epicotyl:
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Formation of the Epicotyl
As you can guess, the epicotyl is a plant part that is important in the beginning stages of a plant's life. Once fertilization occurs and the seed begins developing, an embryo forms inside of the seed. Outside of the embryo, the seed itself is beginning to stockpile massive quantities of nutrients in order to allow the seed to germinate (sprout and grow into a plant). As the embryo progressively grows, we see the cotyledons form along the embryonic shoot. Below the cotyledons is an area known as the hypocotyl. And the part that is above the cotyledons is what we call the epicotyl.
Importance Of The Epicotyl
The epicotyl is a rather simple part, but in certain plants, it plays a specific, rather important role. In hypogeal germination, the epicotyl is directly responsible for growing in order to punch through the surface of the ground. This then allows the epicotyl to grow straight up, elongating the shoot. The cotyledons are stuck in the ground, where they continue to provide nutrients to the young plant before eventually dying.
Opposite hypogeal germination is epigeal germination, where the hypocotyl pushes through first forming a hook and dragging the cotyledons with it to the surface. In this case, the epicotyl is not responsible for pushing through the soil.
The seed is a simple structure with a few main parts in it. Inside a fertilized seed, we will find the embryo, which stores nutrients so that essential structures, like the cotyledons and the epicotyl, can grow. As the embryo readies to sprout and grow towards the surface, we see two types of germination. In epigeal germination, the hypocotyl hooks and pushes up through the surface. This action pulls the cotyledons with it allowing them to grow into leaves.
In hypogeal germination, the epicotyl instead pushes upwards through the surface, causing the cotyledons to stay underground. They expend whatever nutritious stores they had and rot away. The epicotyl ends with the plumule, which will eventually become part of the plant's first leaves.
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Epicotyl: Definition & Function
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