2.4.2 Embryo

Embryo develops at the micropylar end of the embryo sac where the zygote is situated. Most zygotes divide only after certain amount of endosperm is formed. This is an adaptation to provide assured nutrition to the developing embryo. Though the seeds differ greatly, the early stages of embryo development (embryogeny) are similar in both monocotyledons and dicotyledons.

Figure 2.13 depicts the stages of embryogeny in a dicotyledonous embryo. The zygote gives rise to the proembryo and subsequently to the globular, heart-shaped and mature embryo. A typical dicotyledonous embryo, consists of an embryonal axis and two cotyledons.

The portion of embryonal axis above the level of cotyledons is the epicotyl, which terminates with the plumule or stem tip. The cylindrical portion below the level of cotyledons is hypocotyl that terminates at its lower end in the radical or root tip. The root tip is covered with a root cap.

Embryos of monocotyledons possess only one cotyledon. In the grass family the cotyledon is called scutellum that is situated towards one side (lateral) of the embryonal axis. At its lower end, the embryonal axis has the radical and root cap enclosed in an undifferentiated sheath called coleorrhiza.

The portion of the embryonal axis above the level of attachment of scutellum is the epicotyl. Epicotyl has a shoot apex and a few leaf primordia enclosed in a hollow foliar structure, the coleoptile. Soak a few seeds in water (say of wheat, maize, peas, chickpeas, ground nut) overnight. Then split the seeds and observe the various parts of the embryo and the seed.

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