What are cotyledons and their characteristics


In the vegetable kingdom cotyledons they play a fundamental role in the development and reproduction of plants. As with animals, phanerogamic plants emerge from an embryo that develops in successive stages. The first leaf to emerge from a plant embryo that occurs during early plant development is called a cotyledon.

In this article we are going to tell you about all the characteristics and importance of cotyledons.

What are cotyledons

importance of primitive leaves

The first thing we need to know are the main characteristics of cotyledons and how they originate. When we focus on studying botany, the primordial leaves of flowering plants that are known as phanerogams are called cotyledons. These cotyledons develop with the germination of the seed and it is where the first leaf of the embryo is formed. The number of cotyledons present in the seed is used as a way of classifying the phanerogamic plants. Botany used this type of classification to better visualize the different species.

Those of telethon, shoots and roots of plants are structures that develop during the embryogenesis process prior to germination. Embryogenesis is the process by which an embryo is generated. In this case, the embryo is the one that gives rise to the primitive leaf. From the leaf, the stem and the rest of the branches of the phanerogamic plants begin to develop. It is the main leaf that is responsible for receiving sunlight and guiding all its development depending on the direction of the light. It is also in charge of starting photosynthesis for the exchange of nutrients with the environment.

In addition, so that the cotyledons can be differentiated from the rest of the leaves, you can see its size. The nutrients that have the properties such as oil, starch or starch are important for the development of the plant.

Key features

what are cotyledons

Once we know what cotyledons are and how they originate, we are going to see what are the main characteristics they have. The first of all is to know what is the first leaf that comes out of the embryo of the plant. It is this leaf that is in charge of being able to develop the rest of the plant. It differs mainly from other leaves due to its large size. It is usually one size larger than the rest. The number of cotyledons serves as a method of classifying plants in the branch of science known as botany.

In some phanerogamic plants the cotyledon was to digest the albumen. Albumen is nothing more than the tissue that surrounds the embryo. After germination, albumen is used as food for the cotyledon. These cotyledons store various nutrients in their tissue that are used for the development of the plant. In addition, as the roots develop, the exchange of nutrients increases not only with the environment, but also with the soil. Champions have a shorter half-life because, when plants develop, the leaves are responsible for obtaining energy. This causes the cotyledons to fall over time due to lack of use.

Cotyledon functions and importance

plants that grow with a cotyledon

Let's see what the main function of the cotyledons within the phanerogam plants. We know what are important structures in plants that provide adequate nutrients for development once the seed is finished. Also are necessary for plants to germinate. Another of the main functions of the cotyledon is to absorb and reserve nutrients that are stored in the seed until such time as the seedling is able to generate its own true leaves.

Once the plant is capable of generating its own true leaves, they are in charge of making the process of photosynthesis and capturing nutrients through solar radiation. These together with the roots that can absorb the water that later turn it into elaborated sap, the plant can survive and develop.

Cotyledons are important for plant coloration. Thanks to the existence of the cotyledons, chloroplasts appear with which the ability to carry out photosynthesis is obtained. It is the chloroplasts that give the green color to the leaves. All plant structures that are not green do not have chlorophyll, which is the main pigment responsible for photosynthesis.

Monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plants

As we have mentioned before, in botany the number of cotyledons is used to better classify plants. Let's see what the characteristics of each are based on the number of cotyledons they have:


They include angiosperm plants that are characterized by having a single cotyledon in the seed. Its germination only has a single primitive leaf instead of two. These plants do not have a true secondary growth, so they do not have a true trunk. They also do not have a plant tissue made up of embryonic cells. These types of plants are unable to generate wood and their stature increases by widening the internodes as the plant grows.

A typical example of monocotyledonous plants are grasses in which we find most cereals such as wheat, corn or sugar cane. Lilies, palms, jonquil, tulips, onions or orchids are also monocotyledonous plants.


They are those that have two cotyledons in their seed. They are the most common group and when germination occurs, Two primitive leaves are generated that serve as food for the new seedling. The leaves of dicotyledonous plants can take various forms depending on numerous factors. There are heart-shaped, ribbon, compound, etc. They can also have jagged or simple edges. The branches of these plants are composed of annual rings and are made up of a xylem and phloem that are sap-conducting tissues. In addition, they are capable of forming wood or firewood.

Within the group of dicotyledonous plants we have Rosaceae, legumes and Rutaceae. As species, we have tobacco, beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, daisies, sunflowers, coffee, carob, roses, avocado or cherries.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about cotyledons and their importance.

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