Budding naturalists often have a difficult time classifying plant life. The plant kingdom contains a wide array of organisms, from mosses that grow on the ground to trees that reach extreme heights. Though these plants may not seem to have much in common, there are actually several characteristics that all plants display. Understanding these characteristics may help make plant kingdom classification easier, and provide insight into why some plants belong to the same family.
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Plants are eukaryotic organisms, which means they contain cells that house nuclei and organelles enclosed by a membrane. However, unlike many eukaryotes, plant cells do not have lysosomes, centrioles, cilia, intermediate filaments or flagella. Instead, plants require a specialised cell structure because they are able to produce their own food, which other eukaryotes cannot. Plants' specialised structures include a rigid cell wall, plasmodesmata, central vacuole and chloroplasts. In general, plants are not mobile, but some varieties generate gametes, which do contain flagella and are able to move.
Species in the plant kingdom are unique among eukaryotes because of their ability to produce their own food by converting light energy to chemical energy. The process by which they do this is known as photosynthesis, and makes use of the plant's chloroplasts to carry out the procedure. Chlorophyll, found in the chloroplasts, is a green pigment, which gives plants their colour, and enables them to use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars and carbohydrates that provide fuel for the plant's cells. Plants' photosynthetic properties not only benefit the plants themselves, but serve a larger ecological purpose. During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide out of the air and give off oxygen as a byproduct of the process. Photosynthesis occurs almost exclusively in plant leaves, though some activity may occur in stems or other parts of the plant.
Multicelluar Reproductive Structures
Species in the plant kingdom reproduce through sexual and asexual means, but all plants have multicellular reproductive structures. Unlike animals, there are not separate male and female sexes among plants. Instead, both sexes are found on the same organism. Plants that reproduce asexually are able to develop a new organism within their cells, organs or tissues. The new organism is an exact copy of the parent cell, so the genetic material is identical. Plants that reproduce sexually require additional genetic material to be introduced to the original plant, so the combination creates a new organism. Reproductive structures vary among vascular and nonvascular plants. Sexually reproducing vascular plants have the most complex reproductive structures, which typically include seeds that make up the female portion of the plant and pollen, which constitutes the male portion.
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