Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #380696

Research Project: Efficient and Effective Preservation and Management of Plant and Microbial Genetic Resource Collections

Location: Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research

Title: What are seeds made of – and how can they grow into fruitful plants?!

item Greene, Stephanie

Submitted to: Crop Science Society of America
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/13/2020
Publication Date: 3/22/2021
Citation: Greene, S.L. 2021. What are seeds made of – and how can they grow into fruitful plants?!. Crop Science Society of America. Available:

Interpretive Summary: n/a

Technical Abstract: Seeds have been around for 125 million years, when flowering plants came about in the Cretaceous period. The success of flowering plants depended on protecting, dispersing and ensuring the successful establishment of offspring. Seeds fill that role, in all their myriad forms, from the microscopic speck of an orchid seed to the 40-pound Coco del Mar palm seed. The precious plant embryo is protected within a seed coat, which protects the embryo until conditions are right for plant growth. Some species are so well protected their seeds can endure for years, even hundreds of years. Although flowering plants are anchored to the ground with roots, their seeds can wander. Different seed shapes, sizes, and fruit-opening mechanisms result in dandelion seeds blowing away on a breeze, okra seeds exploding from pods, cockleburs hitching a ride on socks, and coconuts floating; all moving to new locations where if conditions are favorable, they can germinate and grow. Seeds have a clever strategy. They will not germinate unless conditions are right for seedling growth. Some species take this even further. Their seeds are dormant. Dormancy keeps the seed quiet, only allowing growth to occur when the right combination of events occur, signaling that conditions are best to ensure the survival of an emerging seedling. This might be a cold moist period, followed by raising temperatures portending spring, or smoke from a fire, foreshadowing nutrient ash and sunshine. Once the dormancy code is cracked, the seed germinates. The embryo begins to grow, utilizing nutrient tissue within the seed to sustain itself, until the first leaves unfurl and begin to gather energy from the sun. With energy, the plant begins to grow, following the genetic path laid down in DNA, that leads to a fruitful plant.