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What is a Plant?

posted in General Gardening |

A plant is a living body that has some basic parts and systems that keep it alive, just as humans do.

They have sap that flows through veins, the sap transports the nutrients that the plants need to survive. Plants also breathe, their life is regulated by hormones and they reproduce,… just like us.

When you understand what a plant is, you can understand their needs and you’ll be able to tend your plants a lot better and take remedial action when things aren’t looking right.

Parts of a plant

Roots

There are 2 kinds of roots;

Tap Roots - these help to anchor the plant in the soil and stop it from being blown out of the ground by the wind. The tap roots don’t take in water or nutrients, they just anchor the plant. A carrot is a tap root that anchors the plant and also acts as the store of food for the plant.
Main Roots - These are the thinner roots that spread around looking for nutrients and water. The main roots take in nutrients that are dissolved in water. As the leaves transpire
transpire(lose moisture, evaporate), this has a ‘wicking’ effect on the plant that makes the roots draw up more water and nutrients.

Stems

Stems stiffen the plant so that it doesn’t fall over and they hold the leaves, flowers and fruit. They form the ’structure’ of the plant and the shape of the stem allows the plant to do what it is destined to do in the most advantageous way. The stems of trailing plants for example don’t need to hold up the plant in the same way that a tree does.
Stems contains xylem that transport water and minerals all around the plant and phloem that transports the starches and other things that it has processed to wherever it’s needed to keep the plant living or to the roots where they are stored(our carrot example again).

Leaves

The leaves absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide and with the help of chlorophyll convert the carbon dioxide and water and nutrients(from the roots) into starches. This is photosynthesis. The by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen.

Flowers and Seeds

Flowers are the way that plants reproduce. Male pollen from one flower needs to be transferred to another flower of the same species, so that they female part of the flower, the anther is fertilized. This fertilization produces fruit or pod which contains seeds, for example an apple or pea pod.

The flower petals act as attractors to pollinating insects. The stamens are the male part which is made up of the filament and at the end of the filament, the anther.

The female part of the flower is the pistil. The pistil comprises the stigma, the style(tubular stem) that attaches it to the ovary. The stigma is the sticky top which traps the pollen from the male flower and the ovary is where the fruit develops.

Plant Sexuality

There are 2 types of plant sexuality;

Bisexual - have both male and female parts. Only 1 plant is required for fruiting.

Unisexual - have either male or female parts. This means you must have 2 plants if you require fruiting.

Plant Groups

Botanists have devised a family tree for plants. This is of interest to gardeners because if you plants share similar biological characteristics then they are more likely to need similar cultivation needs.

The family tree looks like this;

Plant Family Tree Diagram

Plant Names

All plants have latin names. The latin names are botanical names used to identify exactly what the plant is. “strawberry ‘cambridge’ doesn’t tell you that the strawberry is part of the Rose family!! Botanists have created a family tree of all plants and have used latin names to help identify plants on the tree. Latin names are always italicised.

Plants have their surname first and their forename last. So one type of strawberry is Fragaria x ananassa.

If a species has a particular colour group then the colour is added after the forename,e.g. Rosa rugosa alba, alba being the latin for white.

Any variant of the plant(discovered or bred) has an extra name given after the first 2. The name is always written in Roman type, single quotes and begins with a capital letter. For example Fragaria x ananassa ‘cambridge favourite’, which is commonly called Strawberry ‘Cambridge Favourite’.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2007 at 8:31 pm and is filed under General Gardening. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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