Plants are living beings. Although it is a no-brainer for many, how they live on a different timescale than ours is sometimes overlooked. Throughout their lives they do everything they can to, first germinate, and then grow, mature and then leave offspring.
For this reason, I think it is very interesting to know the life cycle of plants . Because although their adaptation strategy is also very different from the one we humans follow, we are going to see that they also go through different stages throughout their lives.
What is the life cycle of plants like?
The life cycle can be defined as the period of time that goes from birth (or germination if it is a plant) until its death. It can be more or less short depending on the species, the environment in which it lives and the conditions it has to face , and even, if we talk about the plants we grow, the care we give them.
For this reason, we roughly distinguish between perennials, annuals, and bi-annuals. But these names are not quite exact, and that is why they sometimes create confusion:
- Perennials: are those that live more than two years, such as trees, palms, shrubs, many climbers and aromatic plants. Thus, a Pinus longaeva can live more than 5000 years, while a Melia azedarach will be difficult to exceed 20; but in any case, they are always plants that live more than two seasons.
- Annual plants: these are the ones that germinate, grow, flower and give seeds and then die in the same year. This does not mean that they live exactly twelve months, but rather that in the same year they go through all the stages that we have just mentioned. For example, in this group we include lettuce, peas, cauliflower, watermelon or melon.
- Bi-annual plants: these are the ones that grow during the first year, and the second they bloom and die. This includes parsley, celery, or violet. In any case, it is worth knowing that many of these are grown as annuals or seasonal, either because they are sensitive to cold, or because what interests is to harvest a specific part, either the root and / or the leaves.
What are the stages of the life cycle of plants?
The stages that a plant goes through at some point in its life are as follows:
The seed, once it falls to an area where there is a bit of soil and moisture , such as the ground or in a hole in the branch of another plant, if the weather allows it, it will begin to hydrate . First, it will do so by absorbing moisture through the micro-cuts that will appear in the seed, caused by environmental conditions (for example, a drastic rise and fall in temperatures) and / or by curious animals scratching them; and then through the radicle, which is the first root that the future plant will have.
The radicle grows fast, as it has an important function to fulfill: that of beginning to absorb water and nutrients. The first leaves, called cotyledons , do not take long to sprout , but although these will also contribute a little to the growth of the plant since they contain reserve food inside, as soon as they sprout the true leaves will die.
This stage is the most delicate for all plants. They are very vulnerable to attack by predators, fungi, bacteria, viruses . For this reason, when they are grown, it is recommended to sow the seeds in a clean, new substrate that has not been used before, and also if they are trees or palms, it is worth treating them with fungicides to prevent damping-off or the death of the seeds. seedlings .
Growth and development
We move on to growth and development. At this stage, our little plant can already say that it has passed into the juvenile stage. She has left childhood behind, and now she is ready enough to face the world , although she may continue to have many problems: predators, lack of space, lack of light and / or water …
For this reason, its roots work at full capacity searching without water and nutrients , and the leaves absorb oxygen and energy from the sun to transform it into energy. Thus, all plant cells receive what they need, and they also do it quite quickly. In fact, this stage is the faster plants usually grow.
Although unfortunately they are not always lucky . For example, a tree, or even a palm tree that grows under the canopy of a forest or jungle and needs light to grow, unless a tall plant falls nearby so that it can occupy its space, it will die young. This can also happen in a garden, if we put a plant that needs sun under the shade of tall trees; Hence, it is very important to know in advance the needs of the crops we want to have.
Ripening begins when the plant first blooms . At this stage, growth is no longer as important as having children. From now on, much of the sap made by the leaves will feed their reproductive parts, which are the flowers. These will be more or less showy depending mainly on whether they are gymnosperms or angiosperms , and while the latter are often formed by petals and / or sepals of very cheerful colors, the flowers of gymnosperms are actually a branch or leaves. fertile called sporophylls.
But how do plants get to fertilize their flowers or sporophils? Well, it will depend a lot on the type of plant, and the adaptation strategy that you have followed. Thus, we distinguish several types of pollination :
- Anemophilous : they are plants that depend on the wind so that pollen reaches one flower to another.
- Hydrophilic : in this case, the plants depend on the water for the flowers to pollinate.
- Zoofila : they are plants that have established some kind of relationship with animals, which are responsible for carrying pollen from one flower to another, often obtaining some benefit in return, such as perfume to attract potential mates, or food for themselves or their offspring. .
It should be borne in mind that even if a plant manages to mature, it does not have to produce the amount of flowers expected those first few times . From my own experience growing trees for a long time, since 2006 more or less, it is easy that that first time is more testimonial than anything else. But if it is comfortable, and if it is a perennial plant, it will flower more and better (annuals or bi-annuals only have one chance to leave offspring, therefore they produce all the flowers they can, expending a lot of energy. ).
In the maintenance stage, the plant will continue to flourish and produce fruits, but as time goes by it gets stronger as well . At this stage the roots have grown enough so that it is well anchored in the ground, which in case of strong winds minimizes the risk of it falling. Be careful: the risk is low, but it is there. We have all heard of, or seen that very old trees have fallen after a severe storm. In Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain), where I am from, almost every year we have a storm that drops pine and / or palm trees that have been lying on the ground for decades.
For this reason, during an episode of this type you should not be outside, not even in a place as well known to you as your garden, since even if you think your plants have rooted well, you never know what it might be. occur. Now, the rest of the year enjoy them. During this stage is when they are at their best : if they have pests or diseases they can recover quickly if measures are taken in time, they produce flowers that are nice to see, if they are trees it is when they already give shade … In short, this is when we can say that the garden or the garden has matured.
Death is the end of life. For humans it is often a sad moment, as we associate it with loss, grief, sadness. But for plants it really is one more stage . As we said before, a young plant that urgently needs light but has grown under the canopy of a forest will not be able to continue growing unless a tree dies.
In addition, when it falls to the ground, the nutrients it used to grow, develop and mature are “returned” to the soil , as the fungi do their job of breaking down organic matter. Thus, the death of a plant can bring good things: compost for the earth.
But (there is always a but), when a pot dies we DO NOT have to reuse that substrate , since we would put the plant we want to grow at risk. What I do is simply throw it out in the garden, somewhere where there are no plants, and that’s it. In this way, I gradually improve the characteristics of the land without putting any crops at risk.
And with this we are done. I hope you liked it.