The seed-producing plants represent the most important division of the plant kingdom in horticulture. Other, simpler multicellular green plants reproduce sexually, but also asexually. Alternation of generations exists when two stages of quite distinct types of growth occur. In ferns (Pteridophyta), a vegetative stage produces a spore forming body on the underside of leaves (see Figure 7.10). Spores are released and, with suitable damp conditions, germinate to produce a sexual leafy stage in which male and female organs develop and release cells which fertilize and develop in the body of the plant. These spores then germinate while nourished by the sexual leafy stage and develop in turn into a new vegetative plant. Ferns can be produced in cultivation by spores if provided with damp sterile conditions to allow the tiny spores to germinate without competition (see Figure 7.11). Vegetative propagation by division of plants or rhizomes is common.
Many plants are able to reproduce both sexually and asexually by vegetative propagation. This is described in detail in Chapter 12.
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