How Do Plants Reproduce?

Guido Gautsch/CC-BY-SA 2.0

Plants either reproduce sexually or asexually, depending on the type of plant. In sexual reproduction, two germ cells, or gametes, fuse to create the beginning of a genetically unique offspring. In asexual reproduction, a plant cell splits in two to create a genetically identical offspring.

During sexual reproduction, a male gamete needs to fertilize a female gamete. Depending on the plant, this is accomplished in a variety of ways. In flowering plants, the male and female gametes are located on different parts of the same flower. The sperm, located in the pollen grains, fall on the carpel of the flower, where the female gametes are located. This process occurs because of wind pollination or insect pollination that transports the pollen grains to the female gametes. As a result of this pollination, a fruit is created, which contains the seeds of offspring. In mosses, sexual reproduction can only occur if the male and female plant gametes combine directly. Conifers have two different cones: a male and a female cone. The male cone gives off pollen that the female cone catches.

Asexual reproduction occurs either through vegetative reproduction or apomixis. Vegetative reproduction occurs when a plant’s shoots, roots and, sometimes, leaves fall onto moist dirt and take root. In apomixis, unfertilized plant seeds are used to create more offspring. Although asexual reproduction among plants occurs, sexual reproduction is far more common in most plant species.