Plants are the biggest wealth the residents of earth possess. The journey of a plant right from the formation of a seed, germination and maturity is no less than a wonder of how such a tiny seed can turn into such massive full grown trees that live up-to thousands of years.
Right from the detachment of a seed from its parent plant, the responsibility of producing a new generation falls on it. There are more than 4,20,000 seed bearing plants which follow their unique pathways to develop into a fully grown tree. The germination or demise of a seed depends on various factors like climate, time of sowing, depth of sowing, water availability, soil, temperature and its genetics.
Sometimes even if favourable conditions are available and we do everything right, the seed might not germinate due to various factors like its genetics, hard outer coverings (seed coats) or poor health.
Here is a tip to ensure that seeds that we are sowing are healthy. We can perform a small experiment by soaking them in water for a few minutes. The seeds which float on the surface can be classified as unhealthy and the ones that settle at the bottom can be termed as healthy and appropriate for sowing. If everything works out well our tiny little seed breaks all the barriers and emerges out of its shell as a little sapling.
Growth and Development
After germination, the plant tries to establish its roots and for that purpose initially it utilises the food stored in the seed. It is the same food that we consume in various forms. Multiple cell divisions occur in order to establish various parts of a plant like root, shoot and leaves.
At this moment one needs to take care of the sapling like a new born child. We need to water it right, supply it with nutrients and provide the right amount of light required. If we observe closely, we will see that some plants germinate inside the soil and the shoots appear above the soil, while in some species germination occurs below the soil itself but primarily the shoots emerge below the soil surface and are pushed outside in later stages.
Soon after emerging out of the dark, the rays of the sun trigger the plant to become independent. After few days the plant can pretty much synthesise its own food. Plants are autotrophs i.e. they can make their own food with the help of a process known as photosynthesis. The major requirement for photosynthesis is sunlight and water. The green colour of leaves contains a pigment known as chlorophyll which utilises the light energy and converts it into food with the help of water and CO2.
Unlike animals plants don’t need to move around in search of food, instead the roots serve this purpose for them by acquiring nutrients from the surrounding soil. They are an integral part of our food chains and ecosystem. Photosynthesis is the reason why plants release oxygen. The water absorbed by the plants is split into hydrogen and oxygen ions. The hydrogen ions are used by the plant to generate energy while oxygen is released in gaseous form. This is why, it is good to plant trees and be surrounded by them. Having indoor plants is also a good way to purify the air inside our homes.
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Fertilization and seed development
Observing a plant grow is a journey full of happiness which also requires patience. After a period of 4-5 weeks the little sapling turns into a medium sized plant which starts developing flowers. Flowers are a source to transfer the virtue of life to a new generation and are the main source of our food. Generally they are not consumed directly, but these structures are responsible for the formation of fruits and seeds. Once a plant starts to flower, pollen grains fertilise the ovary which triggers it to develop into a seed.
A flower on a plant can be bisexual, consisting of both male and female parts together in one or unisexual, possessing either male or female reproductive parts. The female part is stationary and gets fertilised by the male part or pollen grains through natural pollinators (like wind, bees, birds) or by hand pollination.
Naturally, the flowers are attractive and beautiful in order to gain attention of pollinators like bees. These little creatures sit on different flowers and carry pollen grains from one plant to another. This results in fertilization and after fertilization a large number of changes occur in plants which leads to formation of seeds. As this process progresses the flower degenerates.
We all have seen seeds in various sizes, shapes and forms. They can be naked (wheat, rice) or can be packed inside delicious fruits like apple and oranges. The primary purpose of a fruit is seed dispersal. Animals eat fruits and disperse them away from their mother plant. This is a unique way of establishing one’s progeny away from their native place.
Transfer of food and water
Plants translocate water by absorption through roots and then it is carried to various parts of plants in vein like structures. Similarly, food is prepared in leaves or green parts of the plants. From here the prepared food is transferred to different parts which helps in generation of energy and carry out essential functions. The excess food generated is stored in different types of plant parts which can be used for consumption. For example- roots as in case of turnip, radish and carrots, stems as in case of onions and potatoes and various fruits like tomato, berries, banana and so on. Plants store this food to be used in case of emergency as sometimes due to cloudy weather or lack of water, plant is incapable of manufacturing its own food through photosynthesis.
Senescence represents the condition or process of deterioration with age. After the completion of their life cycle the plants slowly start to degrade and die. This process begins after 1 year for annual plants, 2 years for biennial plants and after several years for perennial plants like trees. For ending its life the plant slowly starts to discard its parts and the growth is ceased. Several hormones are responsible for this process. Initially the development of new cells is ceased and the existing cells or parts are deprived of water, food and nutrients. Slowly the essential parts of plants stop functioning and leads to the death of a plant.
Taking care of our plants
There are various ways through which we can take care of our plants whether they are for ornamental purpose or for consumption. We need to ensure that the plants get proper sunlight in winters and in summers we should prevent them from excessive heat. We should water the plants only when the top layer of soil appears dry and do not over water them otherwise it can lead to rotting of roots and leaves.
We should not use harmful chemicals in our gardens, instead we can prepare compost using the fruits and vegetables peels from our kitchen on a daily basis. Along with the plants we should also take care of the soil in which they are growing. The soil needs to be hoed regularly so that the roots can breathe and proper air pockets are developed. Sometimes the stems of plants are fragile and can break easily in their initial stages. In such cases we should provide them with proper support.
Happy gardening folks!