Anatomy and Morphology of Seed Plants


Seed plants, the most successful and diverse group of higher plants, are distinguished from other plants by the presence of a testa (seed coat) that protects the embryo. Plant anatomy describes the structure and organisation of the cells, tissues and organs of plants, whereas plant morphology describes the external form and structure of plants. The origin of these fundamental botanical sciences is outlined, and illustrations and descriptions are given of the main anatomical and morphological features of plants, largely from a functional perspective. Meristematic, dermal, support and vascular tissues are described. Also, the fundamental organs, root, stem and leaf, as well as some of their notable modifications are described. Special attention is given to the flower and its modifications. Seed structure and dispersal mechanisms are described, and a key to identifying the common types of fruits is provided.

Key Concepts:

  • Seed plants are distinguished by the presence of a testa (seed coat) that encloses the embryo.

  • The morphology of a plant is largely unrelated to its anatomy.

  • Seed plants differ greatly in size and appearance, yet all are constructed of a few basic cell types, tissues and organs.

  • Plant organs can be modified to perform different functions.

  • Flowers are advertisements for attracting pollinators.

Keywords: collenchyma; epidermis; flower; fruit; meristem; parenchyma; phloem; sclerenchyma; seed; xylem

Figure 1.

Median longitudinal section of a typical eudicotyledonous plant and transverse sections of specific areas.

Figure 10.

Half flower drawing and floral diagram of Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa‐sinensis)

Figure 11.

Ovary structure and position in flowers. (a) Transverse section of a trilocular tricarpellary ovary. (b) Unilocular ovary. (c) Ovary position. (d) Uniocular tricarpellary ovary. (e) Apple flower and (f) fruit structure.

Figure 12.

(a) Railway daisy (Bidens pilosa). (b) True nut (Hazelnut, Corylus sp.). (c) Silique (Mustard family). (d) Capsule with winged seeds (Mahogany, Swietenia sp.). Illustrations are not drawn to scale.

Figure 2.

Transverse section of a eudicotyledonous stem.

Figure 3.

(a) Sieve element and companion cell. (b) Xylem vessels with different patterns of lignin deposition.

Figure 4.

(a) Transverse section of a monocotyledonous root. (b) Transverse section of eudicotyledonous root.

Figure 5.

(a) Prop roots on a corn plant (Zea mays). (b) Ginger plant with a rhizomatous storage stem and bulbous contractile roots.

Figure 6.

Branching patterns. (a) Monopodial branching (Arucaria bidwilli). (b) Sympodial branching (Seaside almond, Terminalia catappa). (c) Dichasial branching (Plumeria sp.), details. (d) Adventitious branching in sweet potato (Ipomea batatas).

Figure 7.

(a) Dasheen (Colocasia esculenta) plant with a basal corm bearing cormels. (b) Stem of a noble cane variety of sugar cane, comprised of internodes forming an aerial stem tuber.

Figure 8.

(a) Transverse section of the midrib of a eudicotyledonous leaf. (b) Transverse section of a monocotyledonous leaf.

Figure 9.

(a) Leaf spines on a rough lemon tree (Citrus jambhiri). (b) Emergences on leaf of Solanum sp. (c) Emergences on fruit of soursop (Annona muricata). (d) Prickles on stem of a rose bush (Rosa sp.). (e) Bud scales on a chestnut branch (Castanea sp.). (f) Leaf tendrils on Passion fruit plant (Passiflora edulis). (g) Sclerophyllous leaves of Agave sisalana. (h) Succulent leaves of Aloe vera. (i) Pitcher of a Nepenthes villosa plant.



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Further Reading

Beck CB (2010) An Introduction to Plant Structure and Development: Plant Anatomy for the Twenty‐First Century, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Heywood VH, Brummitt RK, Culham A and Seberg O (2007) Flowering Plant Families of the World. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens.

Niklas KJ (1997) The Evolutionary Biology of Plants. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Barclay, Gregor Fraser(Jan 2015) Anatomy and Morphology of Seed Plants. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002068.pub2]