What if you could make an exact copy of yourself from just one cell?  You would make this new person from the same directions that made you.  You and your double would have the same eye and hair color, the same nose and mouth, the same body shape.  While this idea may sound crazy, plants make new plants this way every day.  This kind of copying does not only happen in plants.  Your body also makes new skin cells in the same way.


All living things begin with the building blocks of life called cells.  Each cell has a copy of the plant or animal's special directions, which exist in its genes.  In a plant or person, every cell has the exact same directions "" the directions for making you.  If cells have food and other basic things, they can divide to make new cells or come together to make new organisms.  When new living things form by cells dividing or joining together, we say they generate something new, like new cells or seeds.  To generate means to make something new.


In both plants and people, boy and girl cells come together to make a seed.  For plants, the seed can become a new tree or flower when it is planted and watered.  The boy and girl plant cells each offer half of the new plant's directions.  When the cells make a seed, that new plant is the only one of its kind, unlike anything else on earth.  The boy and girl cells are called gametes.  A gamete is a cell that has half of the directions needed to make a new organism.  In plants, pollen grains have boy gametes and ovules have girl gametes.


Some plants can make new plants without cells from other plants.  Instead, these plants just make a copy of their own genes, just like your skin cells do every day.  One cell divides into two, and the two new cells each have the exact same directions as the parent cell.  The two new cells are twins.  While your body cannot make new babies this way, your skin cells can make new cells on their own.  Asexual reproduction is when one living thing makes more living things with just the directions from itself, like a copy.


Now that's an attractive pair.

Asexual reproduction is not the only strange way plants can make new plants.  Many of the plants that we see every day have both girl and boy parts on the same plant.  These boy and girl parts can be on the same flower, or on separate flowers or cones on the same plant.  This is very different from people, where each person normally has either just girl parts or just boy parts.  Sometimes if one plant has both boy and girl parts, it can bring its own cells together to make a new plant.  Self-pollination is when a plant's boy cell (pollen) reaches its own girl cell.

When a bee visits a flower, it picks up pollen with the male plant cells.  Flowers show a pollination syndrome, which means certain traits, like smell and color, draw certain pollinators to them.  When the pollinators fly on to the next flower with the same color and smell, they take the pollen with them so seeds can form.

Plants can make new plants in many different ways.  Like people, plants also join boy and girl cells together to make seeds.  Most often those cells come from two different plants, but some plants bring their own boy and girl cells together through self-pollination.  Unlike people, plant cells can divide to make new plants that look just like the parent plant through a process called asexual reproduction.  In people, making babies requires boy and girl cells from two different people.  Still some of your cells, like skin cells, are made by dividing into new cells; it is a good thing, since you lose dead skin cells every day.


Biology4kids. (2013). "Plant Reproduction "" They'll Make More." Biology4Kids. http://www.biology4kids.com/files/plants_reproduction.html

Biology4Kids. (2013). "Flower Structure."  Biology4Kids. http://www.biology4kids.com/extras/show_plants/12.html

Christina Piper. (2014). "Kinds of Plants That Are Self-Pollinated." Demand Media.