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The Magical World of Plantae

What plants are and how they work.
by

Alan Bahr

on 15 April 2014

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Transcript of The Magical World of Plantae

What are Plants?
Photosynthesis
Fruit
Plant Processes
Plants are organisms that belong to the kingdom commonly known as Plantae. They make up the majority of organisms that use the process of photosynthesis and range from everything from those enormous trees in the woods to the tiny blades of grass you tread on. Plants also are direct receivers of the sun's energy and are the main source of food for most first-level consumers.
Growing a plant is not easy. It may be easy for YOU--just add water every now and then and leave in the sun--but they undergo very complicated processes to become what we know as "plants."
The Magical World of Plantae
After a flower is pollinated, a case to hold and protect seeds forms. That case is sometimes a fruit. Fruits can ensure the dispersal of seeds since an animal may eat fruit and the seeds will pass through its digestive system unharmed and be deposited somewhere else. Many fruits are also sweet and brightly colored to further attract animals.
An explanation of all those big and small green things.
Germination
Germinate is a fancy word for "sprout." The case of the seed splits open when there is just the right amount of heat, water, and nutrients. After that, a single root called a radicle will extend and branch out, holding the seed in place and absorbing more nutrients from the soil, keeping the sprout alive until the stem grows upward and unfurls seed leaves, at which point photosynthesis will start.
Flowers
About 90 percent of plants in the kingdom Plantae are flowering plants, known as angiosperms. Plants develop buds which eventually bloom into flowers and wait to be pollinated. Flowers look great and smell either very good or very bad to attract pollinators. Flowers usually are pollinated by insects with exceptions like hummingbirds and wind. Once pollen fertilizes the eggs in the plant's ovaries, they become seeds. We humans love cutting off flowers and placing them around our houses.
Leaves
Leaves are flat appendages on almost all plants. They contain chlorophyll and gather the sunlight and carbon dioxide used in photosynthesis; they also transpire water vapor back into our atmosphere via openings called stomata. Leaves wither and fall in autumn after they lose the chlorophyll that makes them green. Leaves also can create new plants from certain species if cut off in a leaf cutting; this is known as vegetative reproduction. Parts of plants that may not appear to be leaves--such as a cactus's thorns--actually are leaves, just rolled up.
Photosynthesis is a vital process for plant life. During photosynthesis, the plant's leaves collect sunlight. They then absorb water from the plant's roots and carbon dioxide from the air. The sunlight collected fuels many complex chemical changes inside the plant's chloroplasts (found inside its cells) that turn six molecules of carbon dioxide and six molecules of water into a molecule of glucose and six molecules of oxygen, the stuff we breathe.
This equation represents photosynthesis; objects on the left are raw materials and objects on the right are products. The arrow represents sunlight energy.
6 CO2 + 6 H2O C6H12O6 + 6 O2
6 molecules carbon dioxide + 6 molecules water 1 molecule glucose + 6 molecules oxygen
Photosynthesis is also a direct opposite of the process of respiration, the method by which animal cells break down glucose and covert it into energy. This keeps the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in our atmosphere in a delicate balance.
The inside of a flower has two main organs: a long part in the center called a
pistil
, and a few parts around it called
stamens
.
These extensions are
stamens
. Stamens produce pollen which carries the plant's genes. Placing pollen from one flower onto another flower creates seeds that have both plants' traits.
This triangular part in the center is a
pistil
. It contains ovaries that hold unfertilized eggs. Once pollen fertilizes the eggs, they develop into seeds.
Note: In some plants like orchids, stamens do not exist. Instead, pollen is tightly packed in masses called pollinia.
Phototropism
Phototropism is a method by which plants bend toward light (read: sunflowers). The light triggers plant cells to elongate on the opposite side and so bends the plant toward the light, gathering more energy. A more specific type of photoropism is know as heliotropism, which is in response to sunlight (helios=sun).
Roots
Roots are extensions of vascular plants' stems. The four main purposes of roots are 1) to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil, 2) to anchor the plant to the ground, 3) to store food and nutrients, and sometimes 4) for vegetative reproduction.
Stems
A stem is a stalk that provides the base for a plant's leaves and basically holds the whole plant together. A vascular plant's stem transports water and nutrients (particularly those manufactured in photosynthesis) through tissues called xylem and phloem. A non-vascular plant lacks xylem and phloem. In a tree, its stem is its trunk, xylem is its wood, and phloem is its innermost bark. Xylem is in charge of transporting water and a few nutrients, though phloem transports the majority of nutrients. Stems also can vegetatively reproduce for some plants.
The Parts of Plants
Other Types of Plants
All plants fit certain criteria. However, this most certainly does NOT mean that all plants are similar. Plants grow all over the world, so why should they all be the same?
Epiphytes
In areas like rainforests, there isn't much light to reach the ground. So, some plants grow on other plants or on other things. Many orchids are epiphytic, and many people are familiar with airplants, which are epiphytes. Pictured here is the lady of the night orchid,
Brassavola nodosa
.
Carnivores
Some plants grow in naturally nutrient-poor soil and have evolved adaptations that allow them to capture and digest insects. Venus flytraps are incredibly well-known carnivorous plants. Pictured here are
Dionaea muscipula
and
Drosera capensis
.
Aquatic Plants
Some plants grow in particularly wet soil or not even in soil at all! Rather, they live in water.
This is a tulip flower.
Non-Vascular Plants
Non-vascular plants are plants that have no vascular system, i.e. xylem and phloem. They usually have simper tissues that handle what a vascular system would do. Pictured here is a moss.
Unicellular Plants
Most plants are multicellular, i.e. being made of more than one cell. However, there are some unicellular plants out there, such as algae.
Lithophytes
A lithophyte is just an epiphytic plant that happens to be growing on or in stone.
Meiosis
Meiosis is a key process in organisms. It is how cells multiply. The chromosomes within the cell split and the cell elongates. Then the cell membrane pinches shut to separate the two cells.
...At least, in an animal cell it would. Plant cells have stiff cell walls that disallow this. So, a new cell membrane and cell wall develop in the middle of the two cells.
Cells
All organisms are composed of cells. Plant cells are almost identical to animal cells, but plant cells have a stiff cell wall and chloroplasts, which are involved in photosynthesis.
Tropisms
A tropism (from Greek tropos, meaning "turning") is a plant responding to changes in its environment. Tropisms are either positive or negative. Positive tropisms guide the plant toward the change, while negatives guide the plant away from it. Some tropisms can be quite dramatic.
Gravitropism
Gravitropism is a tropism in response to (what else?) gravity. A plant's stem shows negative gravitropism by growing upwards, and its roots show positive gravitropism by growing down.
Thigmotropism
Thigmotropism is a plant's response to touch, such as vines wrapping around a branch. Thigmotropism can happen extremely quickly, such as with the famous
Mimosa pudica
, the sensitive plant.
Parasitic Plants
There are several species of parasitic plants, but only a few actually completely rely on their host plants for survival. These specific plants are known as
holoparasites
. Pictured here is the parasite
Rafflesia arnoldii
.
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