external image polncycl.gifMisconception: Plants cannot reproduce sexually.

When teaching botany, there are multiple misconceptions to avoid. Some of those misconceptions include: asexual reproduction and vegetative propagation are not the same thing, vegetative propagation does not always produce genetically identical offspring, plants are not grown from single cells, and pollen is not a male gamete. With these being some of the most frequently discussed misconceptions in botany, the misconceptions of plant reproduction seems to be the most common. Many people believe that plants primary mechanism for reproduction is through asexual processes.

How is this misconception developed developed?
Although there was no specific evidence to determine the cause of this misconception, it was most likely developed the same way most are. A lack of knowledge, cultural influence, and lack of experience are all things that could cause this misconception. By about 16 years old children begin to recognize that plants can reproduce sexually, their understanding however is guided by the model of reproduction they are familiar with. They are still driven by the idea that some sort of copulation is required for sexual reproduction. At this point their understanding is still limited; they may know that plants can reproduce sexually but have no idea why sexual reproduction is important and what the mechanism for sexual reproduction in plants is. They also believe that it is one or the other, and the ability to do either is impossible.
The Correct Explanation:

Any process where 2 gametes fuse is reproduction. In plants, pollination is a common form of reproduction. In pollination, the male gamete (pollen) is carried by a vector (wind, insects, birds, etc.) until it reaches the stigma of another plant. Once the pollen reaches the stigma, a process known as double fertilization takes place and the female and male gametes fuse. From the fusion of the male and female gametes a seed (or spore) is formed which will then germinate into a new plant if the environmental conditions are right. Through the process of sexual reproduction genetically unique offspring are produced. Having genetically unique genes is evolutionary advantageous (i.e. if all organisms were genetically identical, one disease could wipe out an entire colony).

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