How Seeds Germinate: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:05 The Germination Process
  • 0:29 Proper Nutrition
  • 2:00 Seed Growth and Development
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeremy Battista

Jeremy has a master of science degree in education.

Plants function on a rather complex level when compared to other organisms. One of the ways plants reproduce is through seeds. Those seeds must germinate to grow into plants. We will look at the process of seed germination here.

The Germination Process

Through seed germination, a seed begins to grow, up to the surface to become a seedling, and then to hopefully flourish into a plant. A seed needs proper materials to 'come alive' from a dormant state and kick-start the process of growth. In this lesson, we'll learn what nutrients seeds need to 'wake up' and start to grow, and we'll look at the structures that emerge in germination.

Proper Nutrition

In order for seeds to germinate, they need water, oxygen, correct temperatures, and sometimes light. Remember, seeds do not have leaves that are able to absorb light and carry out photosynthesis. Due to this, most of the energy is utilized via aerobic respiration, much like in an animal cell, which requires oxygen and water in order to work correctly.

The seed will already have stored sugars, proteins, and other nutrients, so it will need oxygen and water to help break these apart. In our own bodies, we use oxygen and water to break chemical bonds in order to harness that energy. Seeds are very similar to us in that sense because they lack the ability to make their food like a fully grown plant will.

Many plants need cold to begin the process of growing and still others need heat, sometimes extreme heat, to spark growth. This will be dependent upon the particular type of seed that is growing. Our common houseplants, vegetables, and landscaping-type plants usually require average temperatures anywhere from 50-80 degrees to germinate.

While light may not affect seeds in the typical manner it affects grown plants, it can have some effect. Some seeds will not begin to germinate until the forest allows for enough light. This way, once the seed breaks the surface, it will be able to gather the light needed for proper growth.

Seed Growth and Development

In order to understand how exactly germination happens, we need to learn more about types of seeds. There are two types of plants that produce seeds. Angiosperms produce seeds that are covered in a protective coating. These include fruits, such as apples. Then we have gymnosperms, whose seeds are 'naked,' such as pine trees.

Among the angiosperms, there are monocots (one cotyledon) and dicots (two cotyledons). The word cotyledon is literally translated as 'seed leaf.' Cotyledons are the first leaves that are produced by the seed upon germination. If you were to cut open the seed, the cotyledon is one of the largest parts that you can see right away.

Monocots include grains, bananas, palms, bamboo, and flowers that grow from bulbs like crocuses, irises, lilies etc. Dicots include plants like oaks, magnolias, sunflowers, tomatoes, strawberries, squash, legumes, lettuce, and most of the plants we normally see. It's important to distinguish between monocots and dicots because they germinate differently.

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