Plant Fertilization: Process & Definition

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  • 0:00 Plant Fertilization 101
  • 1:17 What Happens Next?
  • 1:32 Types of Plant Fertilization
  • 2:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

For you, pollen might just be a trigger for sneezing and watery eyes. But for plants, it's a vital ingredient in the reproductive process. Explore plant fertilization through this lesson, then test your knowledge of what you've learned.

Plant Fertilization 101

Plant fertilization is the union of male and female gametes (reproductive cells) to produce a zygote (fertilized egg). So, how does fertilization occur? It's a pretty straight-forward process that's similar for both flowering plants (angiosperms) and seed-bearing plants (gymnosperms). Let's break the fertilization process down into four generalized steps.

Step 1: Pollination

In general, male gametes are contained in pollen, which is carried by wind, water, or wildlife (both insects and animals) to reach female gametes. The pollen is deposited on a plant's stigma, which is part of the pistil (the elongated part of a flower extending from the ovary). This process is called pollination.

Step 2: Germination

Within a few minutes, pollen tubes begin growing, or germinating, toward the egg cell. These tubes will provide a path for the sperm carried in the pollen to reach the egg.

Step 3: Penetration of the Ovule

The pollen tubes penetrate the ovule, which contains the female gametes.

Step 4: Fertilization

Sperm travel down the pollen tubes and fertilize an egg. Most angiosperms undergo double fertilization, where both an egg and the polar nuclei in the embryonic sac are fertilized.

What Happens Next?

After fertilization, the cells of the zygote begin dividing, and the zygote develops into an embryo, or developing plant. The embryo is stored in a seed capsule, where it remains dormant until environmental conditions support its development into a new plant.

Types of Plant Fertilization

There are three primary types of plant fertilization:

  • Porogamy
  • Chalazogamy
  • Mesogamy

Porogamy occurs when a pollen tube enters the ovule through a micropyle, or minute opening in the ovule; this the most common form of plant fertilization. In chalazogamy, pollen tubes enter the ovule through the chalaza, located opposite the micropyle, and in mesogamy, these tubes enter the ovule through its integument (outermost layer or layers).

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