Flowering plant embryos: How did we end up here?

Plant Reprod. 2021 Dec;34(4):365-371. doi: 10.1007/s00497-021-00427-y. Epub 2021 Jul 27.


The seeds of flowering plants are sexually produced propagules that ensure dispersal and resilience of the next generation. Seeds harbor embryos, three dimensional structures that are often miniatures of the adult plant in terms of general structure and primordial organs. In addition, embryos contain the meristems that give rise to post-embryonically generated structures. However common, flowering plant embryos are an evolutionary derived state. Flowering plants are part of a much larger group of embryo-bearing plants, aptly termed Embryophyta. A key question is what evolutionary trajectory led to the emergence of flowering plant embryos. In this opinion, we deconstruct the flowering plant embryo and describe the current state of knowledge of embryos in other plant lineages. While we are far yet from understanding the ancestral state of plant embryogenesis, we argue what current knowledge may suggest and how the knowledge gaps may be closed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Magnoliopsida*
  • Meristem
  • Plants
  • Reproduction
  • Seeds