PLANT KINGDOM

NCERT 11TH STANDARD BIOLOGY – PLANT KINGDOM – INTRODUCTION

In the previous chapter, we looked at the broad classification of living organisms under the system proposed by Whittaker (1969) wherein he suggested the Five Kingdom classification viz. Monera, Protista, Fungi, Animalia and Plantae. We must stress here that our understanding of the plant kingdom has changed over time. Fungi, and members of the Monera and Protista having cell walls have now been excluded from Plantae though earlier classifications placed them in the same kingdom. So, the cyanobacteria that are also referred to as blue green algae are not ‘algae’ any more.

Let us also look at classification within angiosperms to understand some of the concerns that influenced the classification systems. The earliest systems of classification used only gross superficial morphological characters such as habit, colour, number and shape of leaves, etc. They were based mainly on vegetative characters or on the androecium structure (system given by Linnaeus). Such systems were artificial; they separated the closely related species since they were based on a few characteristics. Also, the artificial systems gave equal weightage to vegetative and sexual characteristics; this is not acceptable since we know that often the vegetative characters are more easily affected by environment. As against this, natural classification systems developed, which were based on natural affinities among the organisms and consider, not only the external features, but also internal features, like ultrastructure, anatomy, embryology and phytochemistry. Such a classification for flowering plants was given by George Bentham and Joseph Dalton Hooker.

At present phylogenetic classification systems based on evolutionary relationships between the various organisms are acceptable. This assumes that organisms belonging to the same taxa have a common ancestor. We now use information from many other sources too to help resolve difficulties in classification. These become more important when there is no supporting fossil evidence. Numerical Taxonomy which is now easily carried out using computers is based on all observable characteristics. Number and codes are assigned to all the characters and the data are then processed. In this way each character is given equal importance and at the same time hundreds of characters can be considered. Cytotaxonomy that is based on cytological information like chromosome number, structure, behaviour and chemotaxonomy that uses the chemical constituents of the plant to resolve confusions, are also used by taxonomists these days.

Plant kingdom includes algae, bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Algae are chlorophyll-bearing simple, thalloid, autotrophic and largely aquatic organisms. Depending on the type of pigment possesed and the type of stored food, algae are classfied into three classes, namely Chlorophyceae, Phaeophyceae and Rhodophyceae. Algae usually reproduce vegetatively by fragmentation, asexually by formation of different types of spores and sexually by formation of gametes which may show isogamy, anisogamy or oogamy.Bryophytes are plants which can live in soil but are dependent on water for sexual reproduction. Their plant body is more differentiated than that of algae. It is thallus-like and prostrate or erect and attached to the substratum by rhizoids.

They possess root-like, leaf-like and stem-like structures. The bryophytes are divided into liverworts and mosses. The plant body of liverworts is thalloid and dorsiventral whereas mosses have upright, slender axes bearing spirally arranged leaves. The main plant body of a bryophyte is gamete-producing and is called a gametophyte. It bears the male sex organs called antheridia and female sex organs called archegonia. The male and female gametes produced fuse to form zygote which produces a multicellular body called a sporophyte. It produces haploid spores. The spores germinate to form gametophytes. In pteridophytes the main plant is a sporophyte which is differentiated into true root, stem and leaves. These organs possess well-differentiated vascular tissues. The sporophytes bear sporangia which produce spores. The spores germinate to form gametophytes which require cool, damp places to grow.

The gametophytes bear male and female sex organs called antheridia and archegonia, respectively. Water is required for transfer of male gametes to archegonium where zygote is formed after fertilisation. The zygote produces a sporophyte. The gymnosperms are the plants in which ovules are not enclosed by any ovary wall. After fertilisation the seeds remain exposed and therefore these plants are called naked-seeded plants. The gymnosperms produce microspores and megaspores which are produced in microsporangia and megasporangia borne on the sporophylls.

The sporophylls – microsporophylls and megasporophylls – are arranged spirally on axis to form male and female cones, respectively. The pollen grain germinates and pollen tube releases the male gamete into the ovule, where itfuses with the egg cell in archegonia. Following fertilisation, the zygote develops into embryo and the ovules into seeds. In angiosperms, the male sex organs (stamen) and female sex organs (pistil) are borne in a flower. Each stamen consists of a filament and an anther. The anther produces pollen grains (male gametophyte) after meiosis. The pistil consists of an ovary enclosing one to many ovules. Within the ovule is the female gametophyte or embryo sac which contains the egg cell. The pollen tube enters the embryo-sac where two male gametes are discharged. One male gamete fuses with egg cell (syngamy) and other fuses with diploid secondary nucleus (triple fusion).

This phenomenon of two fusions is called double fertilisation and is unique to angiosperms. The angiosperms are divided into two classes – the dicotyledons and the monocotyledons. During the life cycle of any sexually reproducing plant, there is alternation of generations between gamete producing haploid gametophyte and spore producing diploid sporophyte. However, different plant groups as well as individuals may show different patterns of life cycles – haplontic, diplontic or intermediate.

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