The Life Cycle of a Conifer Plant

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Conifers are predominantly trees, with needles or scale-like leaves, and range from very small species to the tallest trees on Earth -- redwoods, which exceed 300 feet in height. These plants grow scaled cones to reproduce.

Germination

  • The life cycle begins with a seed. Most conifer seeds possess a wing that carries the seed through the air to the ground. When the seed contacts the soil, the embryo inside germinates and sprouts.

Growth

  • Initially, the embryo grows using starches stored in the seed. Eventually, it sends out roots to obtain water and nutrients and a stem with leaves, becoming a seedling.

Maturity

  • The seedling continues to grow, putting out more branches, leaves and roots. Once mature, it reproduces, growing cones made of overlapping scales.

Reproduction

  • Male cones generate pollen, from sex organs called microsporangium. Female cones produce ovules within their scales. The ovules contain mother cells called megaspores.

Fertilization

  • The megaspores form a megalogametophyte with an archegonium containing an egg cell. When pollen contacts the ovule, male reproductive cells fertilize the egg, which grows into an embryo. The megalogametophyte and embryo become a seed.

Seed Distribution

  • When the seeds mature, the female cone opens. Wind and gravity carry them away. If conditions are right, the seeds germinate to restart the life cycle.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
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