Journal Article

Seedling Diversity and the Homologies of Seedling Organs in the Order Poales (Monocotyledons)

Hans-Jürgen Tillich

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 100, issue 7, pages 1413-1429
Published in print December 2007 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Seedling Diversity and the Homologies of Seedling Organs in the Order Poales (Monocotyledons)

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Seedlings of monocots are much more diverse than those of other angiosperms, often with very derived character states. This makes morphological interpretation difficult. The morphology of seedlings of most of the 16 families of the Poales alliance are only incompletely known. The present study aims first to develop an unambiguous terminology for the description of monocotyledonous seedlings. This makes possible clear morphological comparisons and the use of homologous terms for organs. Finally, plotting of well defined characters onto a molecular tree allows the polarization of character states.


Seedlings were grown in Petri dishes on moist filter paper under permanent light conditions and analysed using light and scanning electron microscopy. Only seeds collected at natural habitats or from plants with a well documented source were used. Seedling vouchers are deposited in the alcohol collection of Monocot seedlings in the Botanische Staatssammlung München (M).

Key Results

Based on an unambiguous terminology, seedlings of a great number of genera are described and presented as figures, representing all families of Poales except Ecdeiocoleaceae. Seedlings of Rapateaceae, Joinvilleaceae and Mayacaceae are described for the first time. Morphological comparisons reveal a plausible interpretation of even very modified organ structures, including those of the grass seedling.


This study demonstrates that detailed studies of seedling morphology can provide interesting morphological insights and also new facts for phylogenetic analyses. However, the morphological diversity of seedlings in the monocots is as yet incompletely known, and in some, e.g. Alismatales or Zingiberales, the seedling structure is particularly poorly understood in terms of comparative morphology.

Keywords: Cotyledon; grass embryo; grass seedling; monocotyledons; organ homology; Poales; seedling glossary

Journal Article.  10353 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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