Home Gardening Parts of a Seed and Their Functions

Parts of a Seed and Their Functions – GIY Plants

Illustration of parts of a bean seed, including the seed coat, embryo and endosperm.

Seeds are the cornerstone of plant reproduction, ensuring the continuation of countless species. Within each seed lies the potential for a new plant, a promise of life. To understand this potential, we delve into the three main parts of a seed: the seed coat, the embryo, and the endosperm.

Seed Coat: The Protective Shield

The seed coat, often referred to as the outer covering of the ovule, plays a pivotal role in the life of a seed. It’s the first line of defense, safeguarding the internal parts of a seed.

The seed coat consists of two layers: the outer layer, known as the testa, and the inner layer, called the tegmen. The testa is typically harder, providing robust protection, while the tegmen is generally thinner.

The seed coat protects the internal parts of the seed from environmental conditions, loss of water, and the entry of parasites. Depending on the type of seed, seed coats can be thin or possess hard seed coats. This protective coat is essential for seed dispersal, ensuring seeds move away from the parent plant without damage.

Embryo: The Blueprint of a New Plant

Illustration showing the anatomy of a seed, corn seed in this example.

The embryo is the young plant that is developing inside the seed coat. It’s the embryonic version of a plant, holding the potential to rise to a new plant under the right conditions.

The embryo consists of the following parts:

Radicle: The embryonic root that will develop into the seedling’s primary root.

Hypocotyl: The portion of the embryo below the point of attachment of the cotyledon and above the radicle.

Epicotyl: Located above the cotyledon’s attachment point, it gives rise to the shoot system of the plant.

Plumule: The tip of the epicotyl, which will develop into the first true leaves of the young plant.

Cotyledon: These are the seed leaves of the embryo. Depending on the type of seed, there can be one cotyledon (monocotyledonous or monocots – embryo with one cotyledon) or two cotyledons (dicotyledonous or dicots – embryo with two cotyledons).

The embryo is the reproductive structure developed from the fertilized egg. It’s the underdeveloped tissues of leaves, stems, and roots. When conditions are right, the embryo will germinate, leading to seed germination and the growth of a flowering plant.

Endosperm: The Nourishment Provider

The endosperm is the powerhouse of nourishment within the seed. It provides nutrients to the young plant developing inside the seed coat.

The endosperm contains essential nutrients, primarily in the form of starches, proteins, and oils. Depending on the presence of the endosperm at maturity, seeds are classified as endospermic (albuminous) or non-endospermic (exalbuminous).

The endosperm’s primary role is to nourish the growing embryo. In some seeds, like monocots, the endosperm remains significant and provides nutrients during germination. In dicot seeds, the cotyledons often absorb the endosperm and become the primary source of nourishment for the embryo.


Seeds are made of intricate parts, each crucial in developing seeds and their functions. From the protective coat that shields the young plant to the nourishment provided by the endosperm and the embryonic blueprint for a new plant, seeds are a marvel of nature.

Understanding a seed’s anatomy and its components’ roles is essential to take a closer look at the wonders of plant reproduction. Whether it’s the hardy seed coat, the embryonic promise within, or the nourishing endosperm, each component is a testament to nature’s intricate design.

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