Stop 6: How Plants Reproduce
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Male and Female floral organs in hibiscus flowerSeeds are produced when the female part of the flower (pistil) is fertilized by pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen). Most plants have hermaphroditic or "perfect" flowers, with both male and female parts, as shown in the photo of rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos).

You can find species at the field station that have rarer, alternative breeding systems, including several native woody shrubs that are dioecious, meaning that they produce male and female flowers on separate plants. For example, the bayberry (Morella pensylvanica), a salt-tolerant species that does very well on Nantucket, is a dioecious shrub. At the end of the growing season, female plants of dioecious species bear fruit, while males have none.

male and female bayberry plants

American Holly (Ilex opaca), and Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) are other examples of dioecious plants growing at the field station.

Sensitive fern

Plants can also reproduce vegetatively, or asexually, by creating "clones" of themselves; one common method is to produce underground stem systems known as rhizomes. Most ferns spread vegetatively, including the sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) that grows near the Field Station pond.

Blue Flag (Iris versicolor), found in the wetlands by the pond, is another example of a rhizomatous plant. Iris rhizome While vegetative reproduction is a convenient way for plants to spread, they still depend on sexual reproduction. The combination of two parents' DNA creates genetic variation that has been shown to provide plant populations with resilience against predators and disease. The image below shows the seed head of I. versicolor.

seed heads of Iris versicolor
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Back to the start of the trail Harbor and Barrier Spit Stop 3: Beach Erosion The Ospreys Mowing and Succession Stop 6: How Plants Reproduce The Tangled Web of Vines Plants by the Pond Hidden Treasures at the Pond Wrack Lines at the Beach Folger's Salt Marsh

     The Nantucket Field Station Virtual Nature Trail is a joint effort of the following departments: Biology, Computer Science, Earth & Geographic Sciences, and ECOS. UMass Boston Home Page

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