Introduction

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Seeds germinate, grow vegetatively, then plants flower and fruit, or reproduce asexually. This is the essence of higher plant life cycles — an alternation of vegetative and reproductive phases — and applies equally well to ephemeral annual species as to centuries-old trees. In this chapter we examine the processes of building the vegetative plant axis and then the transition to flowering or formation of asexual propagules. We can think of this sequence as the basic blueprint of plant development. We also discuss breeding systems — mechanisms that influence the probability of self-fertilisation versus cross-fertilisation. Subsequently, in Chapter 8 we look at external environmental signals that influence these developmental patterns, allowing adjustments, optimisation and synchronisation with seasonal cycles of fluctuating climate.

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