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  1. Michael Black

Published Online: 15 MAR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002043.pub2



How to Cite

Black, M. 2011. Seeds. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. King's College, London, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2011


In the seed-bearing plants (angiosperms and gymnosperms), the embryo-containing seed develops from the fertilised ovule. Other tissues might also be present in the mature seed such as the endosperm (angiosperms) and the megagametophytic tissue in gymnosperms. During its formation, storage reserves are deposited in various parts of the seed. The structural and physiological features that develop during transition of the ovule into a seed confer upon it properties that account for its greatly successful role in the life cycle of the dominant plants on earth. These include the reserves, the various dispersal mechanisms and in the majority of species, the ability to withstand desiccation, which is connected with the longevity of seeds in the ‘dry’ state. Seed dormancy, where present, serves later to determine the place and time of germination. Regulation of seed processes is achieved by control of gene expression, including by the hormones abscisic acid and gibberellin. Seeds were critically important in plant domestication and are currently important in plant biotechnology.

Key Concepts:

  • A seed develops from a fertilised ovule and consists of an embryo and other tissues of different developmental origins.

  • The seed occupies a key position in the life cycle of higher plants and accounts for the great success of angiosperms and gymnosperms.

  • During its development, the seed lays down relatively high proportions of storage reserves for the later support of early seedling growth.

  • In most species, seeds tolerate the desiccation that terminates their development and thereafter remain alive for long durations in a quiescent state.

  • Seeds develop various structural features that later aid their dispersal.

  • During development, seeds of many species become dormant, a condition that later blocks germination until after certain environmental signals have been experienced.

  • Regulation of gene expression by hormones and other factors is central to the various processes that occur in seeds.

  • Various features of seeds had a key role in plant domestication and the development of crop species.

  • Seeds are central to plant biotechnology and the design of new crop types.


  • seed;
  • structure;
  • development;
  • desiccation;
  • domestication;
  • dormancy and germination;
  • success;
  • biotechnology