Back To CourseAP Biology: Help and Review
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Catherine has taught various college biology courses for 5 years at both 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology.
A few years ago, I wanted to start growing rose bushes in my side yard. My neighbor was a master gardener and said he would give me some cuttings - basically some stems of a rose bush. I was so confused. Didn't I need seeds? Aren't all plants started from seeds?
If this scenario has happened to you, you're not alone. Many people have the misconception that the only way to start a new plant, in other words to propagate a plant, is to gather seeds from a female plant and then plant those seeds. This is an example of sexual reproduction. However, this is not the only way to propagate a plant. Other ways do not involve seeds and utilize asexual reproduction instead. When plants reproduce this way it is called vegetative propagation. Before we get into the types of vegetative propagation, let's first review the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction.
It's likely that you are most familiar with sexual reproduction, so we'll start there. When humans reproduce, an egg cell and a sperm cell unite and a new organism is created. The egg and sperm are made by the females and males of the species, respectively. The new offspring is different from both its mother and its father due to the mixture of DNA.
Sexual reproduction in plants is very similar. A sperm cell (in the form of pollen) unites with an egg cell and a new organism is created. For many plants, the new organism is contained in a seed. A seed is similar to a baby human inside a womb. Given the right nutrients, it has everything it needs to grow into an adult plant. Just like all humans are the result of sexual reproduction, seeds are the result of sexual reproduction.
But unlike humans, plants can propagate using asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction happens whenever a new organism is made without going through the sperm-and-egg process of sexual reproduction. Because there is no mixture of two sets of DNA, the new organism is identical to the original organism. In other words, the child is identical to the parent. We say that the parent and child are clones because they have the same DNA.
There are seven main ways of propagating a plant vegetatively:
1. Grafting is taking tissue from one plant and combining it with the tissue from another. This is done by cutting off a scion, or branch, from a species with desirable stems, leaves, and buds from one plant. Meanwhile, part of a branch is removed from a different species that has desirable roots. The scion is glued where the branch was removed. The scion gets nutrients from the roots of the second species. Commonly grafted plants are apple, peach, pear, and pecan trees and grapevines.
2. Layering is creating two plants getting roots to grow from a branch and cutting the connection from the parent plant. Branches, or stems of a plant, are bent downward while still attached to the parent plant and buried in the soil. Adventitious roots grow in the soil from the branch. Eventually, the branches cut off from the original plant and can grow on its own. This can be done with blackberry and bonsai plants.
3. Cutting is very similar to layering except that a branch with buds is completely removed (i.e. cut) from the parent plant. One end of the cutting is placed in soil. Adventitious roots grow from the buried end. It is one of the most popular forms of vegetative propagation and can be done with plum trees, pineapple plants, olives, roses, and fig trees.
4. Stolons, or runners, are above or below ground stem-like structures that connect one plant to another. Adventitious roots and a new plant can form from stolons. You can see this if you grow strawberry plants.
5. Suckering. A sucker is any branch that grows out of the base of a bush or from an adventitious root. Once that branch is independent, the plant has propagated. Raspberries and lilac bushes behave in this manner.
6. Bulb or tuber production. Tubers and bulbs are storage organs that can be divided to form new plants. You can divide the tubers of potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and onions or the bulbs of tulips to get this effect.
7. Tissue culture is when cells from one species are grown in a test tube in a lab. The generic cells don't have a function, but contain all the information to form an entire plant. Given the correct hormones, the cells will turn into roots, stems, leaves and, eventually, an entire plant.
These are just general descriptions. Propagation techniques for each plant species is unique. Most plants cannot be propagated using all of these methods. Instead, a plant is typically amenable to just one or two.
Plants can propagate using either sexual reproduction or asexual reproduction. The various types of vegetative propagation are examples of asexual reproduction. The offspring of the plants are clones of the original plant since no mixing of DNA occurs. The most common forms of vegetative propagation are grafting, cutting, layering, tuber, bulb or stolon formation, suckering and tissue culture.
|Propagate||to gather seeds from a female plant and then plant those seeds|
|Asexual reproduction||propagation not involving seeds|
|Vegetative propagation||asexual propagation; an alternative to using seeds|
|Sexual reproduction in plants||sperm cell (in the form of pollen) unites with an egg cell and creates a new organism|
|Clones||have the same DNA|
|Grafting||taking tissue from one plant and combining it with tissue from another|
|Layering||creating two plants by getting roots to grow from a branch and cutting the connection from the parent plant|
|Adventitious roots||grow in the soil from the branch|
|Cutting||similar to layering except that a branch with buds is completely removed (cut) from the parent plant|
|Stolons||(also known as runners) above or below ground stem-like structures that connect one plant to another|
|Bulb or tuber production||tubers and bulbs are storage organs that can be divided to form new plants|
|Tissue culture||cells from one species are grown in a test tube in a lab|
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Back To CourseAP Biology: Help and Review
28 chapters | 382 lessons