Learn about the stages of a flowering plant life cycle. Everything you need to know to teach your children the facts.
A life cycle is an organism’s chain of events until the next generation starts the cycle again. Throughout a life cycle, there will be several different stages in development and reproduction.
Every living organism goes through a cycle during its life, plants included. However, these life cycles differ significantly, particularly in flowering and non-flowering plants.
For this page, we will be focusing on a flowering plant life cycle. So remember, the stages will not apply to all plants.
What is a flowering plant?
First, let’s define what a flowering plant is. Ok, so it’s not that difficult.
A flowering plant is a plant that produces flowers, and these flowers turn into fruits. Because of this, you might also hear them referred to as fruit-bearing plants. Or, if you want to get serious, their scientific name is angiosperms.
Stages of a flowering plant life cycle
A flowering plant life cycle can be broken down into several stages. When teaching, how much detail you need to cover during each stage will depend on the age of your children.
For most primary students, it is enough to say that there are five critical stages in a flower plant life cycle. These are listed below, and we will explain in more detail what happens during these events.
- Seed formation
- Seed dispersal
Seeds come in all different shapes and sizes. But every seed contains an embryo. This embryo is what will go on to become a fully-grown plant.
So when a seed finds itself in the right conditions, it will start to grow; this is called germination.
Most seeds need moisture, oxygen, and warmth to germinate. The amounts of each thing can differ depending on the type of plant and how it has adapted to its environment.
Fun fact: Some seeds are very fussy and need special conditions to germinate. For example, some seeds cannot germinate unless passed through an animal’s digestive tract (yuk!). Or seeds that spring to life after being exposed to really high temperatures during bushfires (ouch!).
During this phase, a seedling develops into a mature plant. Depending on the plant species, this can take days to weeks to even years.
Throughout this phase, the plant’s roots grow below ground to allow it to absorb the water and nutrients it needs. The roots also provide the plant stability and support, anchoring it into the soil.
Also, the stem will get taller and more robust, and the leaves will develop. The development of the leaves is an essential part of this stage. The plant will begin to photosynthesize and make its food in the leaves. This food is required for its continued growth.
The plant will grow flower buds in a flowering plant life cycle. This is a sign that the plant has reached maturity and is ready for the next step in the process.
Once the plant has reached maturity, the flower buds will develop into flowers. These flowers are essential in a plant’s life cycle as this is where the new seeds are made. In other words, the flower is where reproduction happens.
Two critical events are involved in this stage: pollination and fertilization.
Within the flower, you will find a stamen, the male part of the flower, and a carpel, the female part.
The male part of the flower produces small grains of pollen; for a plant to become fertilized, this pollen must reach part of the carpel called the stigma. For this to happen, pollination must occur.
Interestingly, some plants can self-pollinate while others must be pollinated with pollen from a different plant.
The act of pollination can happen in different ways too. For example, plants can be pollinated by insects, birds, animals, or even the wind.
Flowers are good at attracting birds and insects with their brightly colored petals and their sweet-smelling scent. When these creatures come to feed or collect nectar from the flowers, they become covered in pollen. So then, when they move from flower to flower, they pollinate. Similarly, pollen can be carried on their bodies and fur when animals pass by and transfer to different flowers. Or, on a breezy day, pollen can be transported in the air.
Once pollen is transferred from the male part of a flower to the female part of a flower, fertilization begins.
If you want more details on plant reproduction, follow the link or look at some of our resources.
- Seed formation
Once fertilization has occurred, seeds will form, and inside these seeds will be a viable plant embryo.
At this point in a flowering plant life cycle, the flower will die, and the fruit will develop. The fruit protects the seeds from damage and helps them in the final stages of the life cycle.
Interesting fact: Obviously, fruits take on various shapes and sizes, and you might only think of fruits as the typical things you see in supermarkets. But even the fluffy part of a dandelion seed is considered a fruit.
- Seed dispersal
The final stage in a flowering plant life cycle is seed dispersal. Seed dispersal can happen in many different ways, depending on how seeds and fruits have been adapted.
Typical fruits like berries, apples, and tomatoes are eaten by animals and birds and then excreted, eventually finding their way back to the ground.
Some seeds are blown in the wind, and others have adapted to float in water. Some have even developed hooks that help them attach to passers-by. But ultimately, a seed’s primary goal is to find a suitable place on the ground where it can germinate and start the cycle again.