Like all other living beings, plants also need to reproduce to perpetuate their species. But they don’t always need fertilization by the fusion of two different parent. So, are plants asexual? Not all of them. Plants can reproduce both sexually and asexually.
But a question might arise in your mind how would plants reproduce without fertilization. Well, in asexual reproduction, plants replicate their species or, simply put, make clones of themselves. The mother plant and its offspring are always genetically identical, unlike the sexually produced plants.
Let’s know more about how plants reproduce asexually and what type of plants can produce asexually and sometimes both sexually and asexually.
What is Asexual Reproduction?
Asexual reproduction can be termed as a mode of reproduction which does not need fertilization or fusion of male and female cells to produce offspring, rather, it produces genetically identical offspring. Both multicellular and unicellular species can reproduce asexually.
There will be no gamete fusion involved in this procedure, and the number of chromosomes will remain the same. With the exception of specific situations where there is a possibility that a rare mutation will occur, it will acquire the same genetic traits as the parent.
Some of the common characteristics observed in asexual reproduction are:
- No fertilization or fusion of male and female gametes is required.
- Only a single parent is involved in the whole reproduction process.
- The mother plant produces genetically identical offspring.
- There will be no change in the number of chromosomes.
- The process does not take a very long time.
- The growth of the offspring is very high.
As no fertilization or fusion of male and female cells occurs, there is no formation of the seed in asexual reproduction. They produce through the different parts of their bodies like roots, stems, and leaves. Using these parts of their bodies, the parent plant usually regenerates itself.
Why Plants are asexual?
Other than a few exceptions, you will notice that all the plants which reproduce asexually are invertebrates.
They reproduce asexually because they do not have the well-formed reproductive system which a plant must have in order to reproduce sexually. These plants do not form or propagate any seed, which is why they need to reproduce asexually.
Another reason for these plants to reproduce asexually is the changing environmental conditions.
The offsprings of sexually reproductive plants have the ability to survive changing environments, which the asexually reproduced plants lack. That is why they are cloned so that they would not need to adapt to the changing environment.
If you look into some of the plants that reproduce asexually, like a hydra, sponge, honeybees, etc., you will find that these invertebrates do not have well-formed structures, and so they reproduce asexually to replicate and perpetuate their species.
How Do Plants Reproduce Asexually?
Asexual reproduction can be both in natural and artificial methods. There are different kinds of methods through which plants reproduce asexually. The main four types of asexual reproduction process are
Let us see a brief description of each type of asexual reproduction method of plants to understand their functions better.
The meaning of the word ‘Fission’ is to divide. In this process of asexual reproduction, plants divide their bodies into two separate entities to create genetically identical offspring.
The parent nucleus first undergoes mitotic division, producing identical entities with two genetic materials in each. The newly created body is subsequently divided by the cytoplasm through cytokinesis. Fission can be both binary or multiple.
In the binary fission process, plants divide their bodies into two parts as their new individuals. Whereas in multiple fission, they divide themselves into numerous parts.
The process of budding means that the plant will separate a part from its body to create a new genetically identical individual of its own. A bud first develops as a little lump on the parent’s body wall.
The bulge then extends to create a stalk that sprouts some features, like tentacles extended from the body. When the cavity reaches maturity, it separates and begins to live on its own. A bud may occasionally stay connected to its parent while relying less on it or perhaps thriving totally on its own.
In the process of fragmentation, the parts of a plant’s body split into several pieces to reproduce. These separated pieces then form the other missing pieces which did not separate from the body through regeneration. Animals’ fragmentation aids in their ability to regenerate any damaged or broken body parts.
There are some plants that have the capacity to split into two or more pieces, with each new piece developing into a distinct, new individual. They grow quickly and in a short amount of time. Few plants have the ability to develop adventitious plantlets that eventually separate to grow into separate plants, and the other organisms produce organs.
Parthenogenesis is a unique process of asexual reproduction in plants that develops an embryo without being fertilized by male sperm.
They develop some unfertilized eggs, which turn into genetically identical offspring of the plant. Some plants undergo the process of parthenogenesis for reproduction needs, whereas some plants are simply propelled by the condition and its challenges around them.
One good example of this can be aphids which simply undergo parthenogenesis because it has an excess amount of nutrients forming inside them and not because it has to reproduce offspring.
How Asexual Reproduction Benefits Plants
Asexual reproduction in plants may only seem like a way of reproducing the plants, but they come with some benefits as well. Some of the benefits or big advantages are mentioned below.
- Asexual reproduction helps in the preservation of different genetical characteristics of the plants.
- It is not dependent on parents of different genders to mate in order to reproduce.
- The process of asexual reproduction has fast growth and reproduces in very less time.
- Propagating plants that have no means of seeds to produce offspring.
Drawbacks Of Asexual Reproduction In Plants
Although there are plenty of advantages seen from the asexual reproduction of plants, they certainly come with some drawbacks as well. Let us find out the disadvantages or limitations of asexual reproduction.
- As genetically identical offspring is produced, diversity is not seen in these plants.
- They face many difficulties adapting to the ever-changing environment
- A minute change in the habitats of the plants might destroy the entire species.
It is quite fascinating to see plants reproduce asexually in such unique ways without being fertilized or fused by two parent trees. But as their adaptability to the changing environments is very, it might destroy a single line of species entirely. With the alarmingly rising concerns of global warming, these plants might soon.