Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.
plant,any organism of the plant kingdom, as opposed to one of the animalanimal,
any member of the animal kingdom (kingdom Animalia), as distinguished from organisms of the plant kingdom (kingdom Plantae) and the kingdoms Fungi, Protista, and Monera in the five-kingdom system of classification.
..... Click the link for more information. kingdom or of the kingdoms FungiFungi
, kingdom of heterotrophic single-celled, multinucleated, or multicellular organisms, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. The organisms live as parasites, symbionts, or saprobes (see saprophyte).
..... Click the link for more information. , ProtistaProtista
, in the five-kingdom system of classification, a kingdom comprising a variety of unicellular and some simple multinuclear and multicellular eukaryotic organisms.
..... Click the link for more information. , or MoneraMonera,
taxonomic kingdom that comprises the prokaryotes (bacteria and cyanobacteria). Prokaryotes are single-celled organisms that lack a membrane-bound nucleus and usually lack membrane-bound organelles (mitochondria, chloroplasts; see cell, in biology).
..... Click the link for more information. in the five-kingdom system of classification. (A more recent system, suggested by genetic sequencing studies, places plants with animals and some other forms in an overarching group, the eukarya, to distinguish them from the prokaryotic bacteria and archaea, or ancient bacteria.) A plant may be microscopic in size and simple in structure, as are certain one-celled algae, or a gigantic, many-celled complex system, such as a tree.
Plants are generally distinguished from animals in that they possess chlorophyll, are usually fixed in one place, have no nervous system or sensory organs and hence respond slowly to stimuli, and have rigid supporting cell walls containing cellulosecellulose,
chief constituent of the cell walls of plants. Chemically, it is a carbohydrate that is a high molecular weight polysaccharide. Raw cotton is composed of 91% pure cellulose; other important natural sources are flax, hemp, jute, straw, and wood.
..... Click the link for more information. . In addition, plants grow continually throughout life and have no maximum size or characteristic form in the adult, as do animals. In higher plants the meristem tissues in the root and stem tips, in the buds, and in the cambium are areas of active growth. Plants also differ from animals in the internal structure of the cellcell,
in biology, the unit of structure and function of which all plants and animals are composed. The cell is the smallest unit in the living organism that is capable of integrating the essential life processes. There are many unicellular organisms, e.g.
..... Click the link for more information. and in certain details of reproduction (see mitosismitosis
, process of nuclear division in a living cell by which the carriers of hereditary information, or the chromosomes, are exactly replicated and the two copies distributed to identical daughter nuclei.
..... Click the link for more information. ).
There are exceptions to these basic differences: some unicellular plants (e.g., Euglena) and plant reproductive cells are motile; certain plants (e.g., Mimosa pudica, the sensitive plant) respond quickly to stimuli; and some lower plants do not have cellulose cell walls, while the animal tunicates (e.g., the sea squirt) do produce a celluloselike substance.
The Plant Kingdom
The systems of classificationclassification,
in biology, the systematic categorization of organisms into a coherent scheme. The original purpose of biological classification, or systematics, was to organize the vast number of known plants and animals into categories that could be named, remembered, and
..... Click the link for more information. of the plant kingdom vary in naming and placing the larger categories (even the divisions) because there is little reliable fossil evidence, as there is in the case of animals, to establish the true evolutionary relationships of and distances between these groups. However, comparisons of nucleic acid sequences in plants are now serving to clarify such relationships among plants as well as other organisms.
A widely held view of plant evolution is that the ancestors of land plants were primitive algae that made their way from the ocean to freshwater, where they inhabited alternately wet-and-dry shoreline environments, eventually giving rise to such later forms as the liverworts and mosses. From some remote fern ancestor, in turn, arose the seed plants.
The plant kingdom traditionally was divided into two large groups, or subkingdoms, based chiefly on reproductive structure. These are the thallophytes (subkingdom Thallobionta), which do not form embryos, and the embryophytes (subkingdom Embryobionta), which do. All embryophytes and most thallophytes have a life cycle in which there are two alternating generations (see reproductionreproduction,
capacity of all living systems to give rise to new systems similar to themselves. The term reproduction may refer to this power of self-duplication of a single cell or a multicellular animal or plant organism.
..... Click the link for more information. ). The plant form of the thallophytes is an undifferentiated thallus lacking true roots, stems, and leaves. The subkingdom Thallobionta is composed of more than 10 divisions of algaealgae
[plural of Lat. alga=seaweed], a large and diverse group of primarily aquatic plantlike organisms. These organisms were previously classified as a primitive subkingdom of the plant kingdom, the thallophytes (plants that lack true roots, stems, leaves, and flowers).
..... Click the link for more information. and fungi (once considered plants). The subkingdom Embryobionta is composed of two groups: the bryophytes (liverwortliverwort,
any plant of the class Marchantiopsida. Mosses and liverworts together comprise the division Bryophyta, primitive green land plants (see moss; plant); some of the earliest land plants resembled modern liverworts.
..... Click the link for more information. and mossmoss,
any species of the class Bryopsida, in which the liverworts are sometimes included. Mosses and liverworts together comprise the division Bryophyta, the first green land plants to develop in the process of evolution.
..... Click the link for more information. ), division BryophytaBryophyta
, division of green land plants that includes the mosses (class Bryopsida), the liverworts (Marchantiopsida), and the hornworts (Anthocerotopsida). The liverworts and hornworts are generally inconspicuous plants; common liverworts include species of the genera
..... Click the link for more information. , which have no vascular tissues, and a group consisting of seven divisions of plants that do have vascular tissues. The Bryophyta, like other nonvascular plants, are simple in structure and lack true roots, stems, and leaves; they therefore usually live in moist places or in water.
The vascular plants have true roots, stems, and leaves and a well-developed vascular system composed of xylem and phloem for transporting water and food throughout the plant; they are therefore able to inhabit land. Three of the divisions of the vascular plants are currently represented by only a very few species. They are the PsilotophytaPsilotophyta
, division of vascular plants consisting of only two genera, Psilotum and Tmesipteris, with very few species. These plants are characterized by the lack of roots, and, in one species, leaves are lacking also.
..... Click the link for more information. , with only three living species; the LycopodiophytaLycopodiophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of the organisms commonly called club mosses and quillworts. As in other vascular plants, the sporophyte, or spore-producing phase, is the conspicuous generation, and the gametophyte, or gamete-producing phase, is minute.
..... Click the link for more information. (club mosses); and the EquisetophytaEquisetophyta
, small division of the plant kingdom consisting of the plants commonly called horsetails and scouring rushes. Equisetum, the only living genus in this division, is descended evolutionarily from tree-sized fossil plants.
..... Click the link for more information. (horsetails). All the plants of a fourth subdivision, the RhyniophytaRhyniophyta
, division of plants known only from fossils, of which the genus Rhynia was perhaps the most important. These plants date from the Silurian and Devonian age.
..... Click the link for more information. , are extinct. The remaining divisions include the dominant vegetation of the earth today: the ferns (see PolypodiophytaPolypodiophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of the plants commonly called ferns. The ferns are vascular plants with stems, roots, and leaves. The small and inconspicuous gametophyte and the large spore-producing fern plant are quite independent of each other.
..... Click the link for more information. ), the cone-bearing gymnosperms (see PinophytaPinophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called gymnosperms. The gymnosperms, a group that includes the pine, have stems, roots and leaves, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
..... Click the link for more information. ), and the angiosperms, or true flowering plants (see MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
..... Click the link for more information. ). The latter two classes, because they both bear seeds, are often collectively called spermatophytes, or seed plants.
The gymnosperms are all woody perennial plants and include several orders, of which most important are the coniferconifer
[Lat.,=cone-bearing], tree or shrub of the order Coniferales, e.g., the pine, monkey-puzzle tree, cypress, and sequoia. Most conifers bear cones and most are evergreens, though a few, such as the larch, are deciduous.
..... Click the link for more information. , the ginkgoginkgo
or maidenhair tree,
tall, slender, picturesque deciduous tree (Ginkgo biloba) with fan-shaped leaves. The ginkgo is native to E China, where it was revered by Buddhist monks and planted near temples.
..... Click the link for more information. , and the cycadcycad
, any plant of the order Cycadales, tropical and subtropical palmlike evergreens. The cycads, ginkgoes, and conifers comprise the three major orders of gymnosperms, or cone-bearing plants (see cone and plant). The cycads first appeared in the Permian period.
..... Click the link for more information. . The angiosperms are separated into the monocotyledonous plants—usually with one cotyledon per seedseed,
fertilized and ripened ovule, consisting of the plant embryo, varying amounts of stored food material, and a protective outer seed coat. Seeds are frequently confused with the fruit enclosing them in flowering plants, especially in grains and nuts.
..... Click the link for more information. , scattered vascular bundles in the stemstem,
supporting structure of a plant, serving also to conduct and to store food materials. The stems of herbaceous and of woody plants differ: those of herbaceous plants are usually green and pliant and are covered by a thin epidermis instead of by the bark of woody plants.
..... Click the link for more information. , little or no cambiumcambium
, thin layer of generative tissue lying between the bark and the wood of a stem, most active in woody plants. The cambium produces new layers of phloem on the outside and of xylem (wood) on the inside, thus increasing the diameter of the stem.
..... Click the link for more information. , and parallel veins in the leafleaf,
chief food-manufacturing organ of a plant, a lateral outgrowth of the growing point of stem. The typical leaf consists of a stalk (the petiole) and a blade—the thin, flat, expanded portion (needlelike in most conifers) that is normally green in color because of the
..... Click the link for more information. —and the dicotyledonous plants—which as a rule have two cotyledons per seed, cylindrical vascular bundles in a regular pattern, a cambium, and net-veined leaves. There are some 50,000 species of monocotyledon, including the grasses (e.g., bamboo and such cereals as corn, rice, and wheat), cattails, lilies, bananas, and orchids. The dicotyledons contain nearly 200,000 species of plant, from tiny herbs to great trees; this enormously varied group includes the majority of plants cultivated as ornamentals and for vegetables and fruitfruit,
matured ovary of the pistil of a flower, containing the seed. After the egg nucleus, or ovum, has been fertilized (see fertilization) and the embryo plantlet begins to form, the surrounding ovule (see pistil) develops into a seed and the ovary wall (pericarp) around the
..... Click the link for more information. .
Importance of Plants
Plants are essential to the balance of nature and in people's lives. Green plants, i.e., those possessing chlorophyllchlorophyll
, green pigment that gives most plants their color and enables them to carry on the process of photosynthesis. Chemically, chlorophyll has several similar forms, each containing a complex ring structure and a long hydrocarbon tail.
..... Click the link for more information. , manufacture their own food and give off oxygen in the process called photosynthesisphotosynthesis
, process in which green plants, algae, and cyanobacteria utilize the energy of sunlight to manufacture carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll. Some of the plants that lack chlorophyll, e.g.
..... Click the link for more information. , in which water and carbon dioxide are combined by the energy of light. Plants are the ultimate source of food and metabolic energy for nearly all animals, which cannot manufacture their own food. Besides foods (e.g., grains, fruits, and vegetables), plant products vital to humans include woodwood,
botanically, the xylem tissue that forms the bulk of the stem of a woody plant. Xylem conducts sap upward from the roots to the leaves, stores food in the form of complex carbohydrates, and provides support; it is made up of various types of cells specialized for each of
..... Click the link for more information. and wood products, fibers, drugs, oils, latex, pigments, and resins. Coal and petroleum are fossil substances of plant origin. Thus plants provide people not only sustenance but shelter, clothing, medicines, fuels, and the raw materials from which innumerable other products are made.
The scientific study of plants is called botanybotany,
science devoted to the study of plants. Botany, microbiology, and zoology together compose the science of biology. Humanity's earliest concern with plants was with their practical uses, i.e., for fuel, clothing, shelter, and, particularly, food and drugs.
..... Click the link for more information. ; the study of their relationship to their environment and of their distribution is plant ecologyecology,
study of the relationships of organisms to their physical environment and to one another. The study of an individual organism or a single species is termed autecology; the study of groups of organisms is called synecology.
..... Click the link for more information. . The cultivation of plants for food and for decoration is horticulturehorticulture
[Lat. hortus=garden], science and art of gardening and of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. Horticulture generally refers to small-scale gardening, and agriculture to the growing of field crops, usually on a large scale, although
..... Click the link for more information. . For specific approaches to the study of plants and animals, see biologybiology,
the science that deals with living things. It is broadly divided into zoology, the study of animal life, and botany, the study of plant life. Subdivisions of each of these sciences include cytology (the study of cells), histology (the study of tissues), anatomy or
..... Click the link for more information. .
The Plantae share the characteristics of multicellularity, cellulose cell walls, and photosynthesis using chlorophylls a and b (except for a few plants that are secondarily heterotrophic). Most plants are also structurally differentiated, usually having organs specialized for anchorage, support, and photosynthesis. Tissue specialization for photosynthetic, conducting, and covering functions is also characteristic. Plants have a sporic (rather than gametic or zygotic) life cycle that involves both sporophytic and gametophytic phases, although the latter is evolutionarily reduced in the majority of species. Reproduction is sexual, but diversification of breeding systems is a prominent feature of many plant groups. See Photosynthesis, Reproduction (plant)
A conservative estimate of the number of described species of plants is 250,000. There are possibly two or three times that many species as yet undiscovered, primarily in the Southern Hemisphere. Plants are categorized into nonvascular and vascular groups, and the latter into seedless vascular plants and seed plants. The nonvascular plants include the liverworts, hornworts, and mosses. The vascular plants without seeds are the ground pines, horsetails, ferns, and whisk ferns; seed plants include cycads, ginkgos, conifers, gnetophytes, and flowering plants. Each of these groups constitutes a division in botanical nomenclature, which is equivalent to a phylum in the zoological system. See Plant taxonomy