The flower is one of nature’s great success stories, an organism that can produce its own food, grow in a wide variety of climates and exploit the unique traits of other organisms in the ecosystem in order to self-propagate. Flowers come in an astounding variety of shapes, sizes and colors, but all flower species follow the same basic growth stages during their life cycle. Through this process flowers mix the genes from one or more other plants to create a more diverse population.
Most flowering plants begin with seeds that are spread using a variety of methods. Some seeds are so small that they simply blow away with the wind, such as the seed of the dandelion, while others attach themselves to birds and animals or become their food. Seed dispersal is critical to the flower species survival as this allows the organism to inhabit new and potentially better growing sites.
During the germination stage, the flowering plant’s seed sprouts from the earth. Germination is all about timing, and a plant that germinates too early or late in the season will probably not survive. Variants in temperature, light, water and soil components can initiate germination. In this stage the underground seed opens up and a tiny stem begins to penetrate the topsoil.
The duration of the growth stage varies tremendously from plant to plant, with some growing virtually overnight and others taking many weeks to mature. With the right temperature and enough sunlight and water, the plant will sprout leaves from its stem and establish its root system. The plant then begins to sprout tiny buds that eventually become full flowers.
During the reproduction stage the flowering plant produces eggs in its ovaries and sperm or pollen, which are kept in the anthers. The flower spreads its pollen to other flowers by wind, birds and insects, which then fertilize the eggs in the new flower. This forms a zygote, which soon becomes an embryo. The fertilization also forms the endosperm, which provides temporary food for the need until it can produce its own. Together these two parts become the seed once the seed coating is established. Seeds then travel to new locations using a variety of methods.
All flowering plants die eventually. However, perennial plants live for many years even though they often enter a dormant stage each year in which they appear to die. Biennial plants do this as well but only live for two years. Annual flowers are born and die off each year, so they must always be replanted.