Throughout history, humans have celebrated the
beauty and fertility of flowering plants. In addition
to their aesthetic appeal, flowers contain the
reproductive organs of the plant and are therefore
essential for sexual propagation of plant life.
Our dependence on flowering is illustrated by
the dietary importance of fruits and seed crops.
Advances in molecular biology and biochemistry
are now revealing the cellular mechanisms that
underlie the development and symmetry of flowers
and the nutritive value of seeds.
Figure 19.1 outlines
the life cycle of a flowering plant, highlighting
the reproductive organs that we will discuss at
length in this chapter. After first describing
how flowering is induced and how flower primordia
are patterned, we will consider the production
and union of male and female gametes. Finally,
we will illustrate the formation of seeds, in
which plant embryos are packaged and remain quiescent
until induced to germinate. Throughout the chapter
we will highlight recent developments in genetics,
molecular biology, and biochemistry that are being
utilized to unravel the details of reproductive
mechanisms in plants.