When you admire a towering oak tree, or enjoy its shade, do you ever ponder on the miracle that produced it, the sprouting of an acorn seed? The sweet mystery of life is wrapped up in a seed.
Webster tells us that a seed is “the small body produced by flowering plants which contains an embryo capable of developing by germination.”
Seeds vary in size. Examine the seeds of an African violet. They are like grains of dust. One marvels that anything so minute can contain the spark of life. At the other extreme, one type palm tree has seeds 12 to 18 inches long which weigh up to 40 pounds each.
The embryo in a seed is a miniature, dormant plant with one or more leaves, a bud or growing point, and a descending stem. Food is not needed for germination. Seeds can be sprouted between layers of wet cloth, moistened paper, or on water-soaked bricks. Each seed contains enough food for the sprouting seedling until it is able to manufacture its own.
Let us see what takes place when a seed sprouts. We will assume that the seed is alive, that it is capable of growing (viable) if it has the required moisture and temperature (these vary greatly with different kinds of seeds) and air.
If something has destroyed the life within the seed, it cannot grow no matter how favorable other conditions are. When the seed absorbs moisture, certain substances within change the stored starches to sugars. Plant cells and tissues begin to grow. The first visible sign is the swelling of the seed.
Check the Seed Covering
Next the seed covering is broken and an elementary stem appears which is the beginning of the plant’s root system. When this has taken place we know for sure that the seed is able to grow. But even though a seed may sprout it does not always have strength enough to finish the process of complete germination.
When a farmer’s newly planted corn is slow in coming up, he digs down to see if the seed has sprouted. If he can see the “stemlet” which is the root, he knows the corn has sprouted. Then he watches anxiously to see the corn down the rows. The day he sees the green spears, he is assured that germination is complete.
Place some grains of oats, wheat, or corn on a moist cloth, roll it up and place it in a plastic bag in a sunny window. If you will examine it from time to time, you will see just how the grains swell and how the viable ones send out the descending stemlet followed by the top shoot.
A very interesting experiment can be carried on with an avocado seed. Stick three toothpicks into the broad end to support the seed in a tumbler of water. The water should just touch the base of the seed. In due time the seed will go through the stages of sprouting and on to complete germination before your very eyes.