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How Does a Plant Reproduce If it Does Not Have Seeds? Concentrating on seed production requires a lot of energy from the plant itself -- this process does not work for all plants and may actually negatively impact their numbers in some regions. As a solution, plants look to alternative reproduction, such as asexual means, including forming rapidly spreading growths or prolific spores across leaf undersides.

Rhizomes are underground stems that grow laterally from an originating plant, such as an iris. As the stem grows outward within the soil, it produces a new, above-ground shoot for foliage and photosynthesis processes. As the plant gains more energy from the sun and surrounding soil, the rhizome stems continue to spread to quickly populate an area. However, rhizomes cannot grow vigorously in compacted soil coupled with poor fertility. If you maintain your garden's soil as a friable and nutrient-rich environment, the rhizomes retain their strength and vigor. Much like rhizomes, tubers form underground growths and eventual stems for reproductive success. Potatoes, being one of the most commonly known tubers, use the energy reserves in their bodies to cultivate new growths when planted in soil. Bulbs and corms store most of their energy in their bodies, rather than relying solely on the surrounding environment.

When planted underground, they sprout and blossom depending on their stored nutrient reserves and available water. Although seed dispersal produces more genetic diversity for a particular plant species, forming cloned runners above ground allows the plant to avoid energy depletion from seed production while gaining more nutrients from the surrounding soil. For example, runners develop from a strawberry plant's crown. As the runner branches laterally, it slowly descends to the soil. As a result, it grows a new root and foliage system, referred to as a daughter plant. Retaining the same genetic information as the mother plant, these clones continue to multiply if conditions are optimal, such as access to ample sunlight and moisture. You can even remove the daughter plants from the mother plant to propagate your garden further in another location. In contrast, stolons grow much like runners, but have leaves for photosynthesis -- they can produce their own energy reserves, unlike runners that cannot exist without attachment to the mother plant. Some plants, such as cacti, grow new plants from cuttings. For example, fleshy leaves that break or fall off of a mother plant slowly root themselves in the soil. If conditions are optimal, this cutting eventually grows into a new plant. Cuttings help specific plants proliferate in unusual ways where seed production is not possible. Plants that do not produce flowers, such as ferns, typically use spores as their main reproductive strategy. Spore-producing plants are often found in shady locations where seed production cannot occur since sunlight is scarce. Because spores appear on the plant leaves' undersides, they must be lightweight so that the plant can produce as many as possible. As the leaves move in the breeze, spores detach and float away to another location. Unlike a seed, the spore must find nourishment from a host in the new location before it can grow into a new plant. These seed plants fall into two groups, angiosperms and gymnosperms. Their seeds develop inside a female reproductive part of the flower, called the ovary, which usually ripens into a protective FRUIT. Gymnosperms (conifers, Ginkgo, and cycads) do not have flowers or ovaries. Seeds may be carried away from the parent plant by wind, water, or animals. Dandelion seeds have feathery parachutes to help them fly far from their parent plant. A dandelion flower is actually made up of many small flowers, called florets. The fruits form inside the closed-up seed head, after the yellow petals have withered away. When the weather is dry, the seed head opens, revealing a ball of parachutes.

The slightest breeze lifts the parachutes into the air. A seed is the first stage in the life cycle of a plant. Protected inside the tough seed coat, or testa, is the baby plant, called an embryo. Food, which fuels germination and growth, is either packed around the embryo or stored in special seed leaves, called cotyledons. Some plants create offshoots of themselves – in the form of bulbs, tubers, corms, or rhizomes – that can grow into new plants. This type of reproduction is called vegetative reproduction.

As only one parent plant is needed, the offspring is a clone of its parent. A bulb is an underground bud with swollen leaf bases.


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