All flowering plants have the same basic life cycle, from large saucer magnolias to small violets. Plants that produce flowers and seeds are called angiosperms. Angiosperms contain reproductive organs, which produce pollen and seeds. The life cycle of a flowering plant begins and ends with the seed.
The seed contains the embryo of the plant. The embryo is surrounded by food, which is used to nourish the plant until it can germinate, sprout, open its leaves and start producing its own food. The embryo and food are protected by the seed coat, which can be rather soft or quite hard. The seed lies dormant in the soil until conditions are ripe for germination, which can happen immediately or not for a very long time.
Germination takes place when the conditions are met for the plant to begin growing. These conditions consist of warm sunlight and enough moisture in the soil to nourish the plant. Water is allowed to penetrate the seed coat, and the food begins to nourish the embryo, causing the radicle (primary root) to grow downward. Then, the plumule (shoot) sprouts upward.
Once the shoot reaches open air, it puts out the primary leaves, which quickly open to gather the sunlight necessary to produce food. These leaves may look very different from the leaves the flower will have at maturity. At this point, the plant stops relying on the food stored in the seed. Now, the flowering plant is called a seedling.
The plant continues to grow and mature, producing more leaves, but it may not produce flowers right away. In fact, some plants take a long time to produce flowers. This is especially true in the case of flowering trees. Once the plant produces flowers, it is considered a mature plant, and the next stage in the life cycle begins. Most flowering plants have blooms that contain male and female reproductive organs, but some plants, such as holly, are either male or female, according to the Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust.
Stamens are centered in each flower. The stamens are topped by anthers, which is where pollen is produced. The stamens surround the pistil, which houses the ovules, or beginnings of the seeds. Atop the pistil lies the stigma, which traps pollen carried to the flower by insects. Once pollen lands on the stigma, it sends down a tube to the ovary and fertilizes the ovules, which will start to become seeds. This process is called pollination.
As the flower begins to die, the seeds are dispersed to land and eventually germinate elsewhere. The wind may blow them from the flower, or they may be consumed by a bird and excreted in a new location. There, the seed will lie dormant, waiting for the conditions to trigger germination, and the cycle starts anew.