What comes to your mind when you hear about dicotyledons? Some complicated MIT math? Well, dicotyledons– readily known as dicots – are simply flowering plants with two cotyledons. There are currently an estimated 175,000 established species of dicot plants occurring under popular families like Asteraceae, Myrtaceae, and Leguminosae.
Common examples of dicots include fruits like grapes and apples, trees like chestnut and oak, vegetables like soybean and carrot, and flowers like rose and hollyhock. Dicots differ from monocots (having just one cotyledon) in the seed, vascular structure, flowering, and leaf arrangement.
I bet you want to know what really distinguishes these plants. Good news is that you are in the right place to satisfy your curiosity about dicot plants.
Characteristics of dicot plants
The characteristics of dicots are better appreciated when measured against those of monocots. Generally, plants are classified into flowering plants (called angiosperms) and non-flowering plants (called gymnosperms).
Based on the type of embryonic leaf, these flowering plants are further subdivided into dicotyledonous and monocotyledonous plants.
Aside from the difference in the number of cotyledons, dicots can be differentiated from monocots based on their stems, leaves, roots, and flowers arrangement.
Let us talk about flowers
Dicots differ from monocots based on their flower arrangement. The flower parts (composed of stamens and petals) in dicots are usually in multiples of fours and fives. For monocots, the flower parts are commonly in multiples of threes.
Moving on to roots
The majority of monocots have fibrous roots. These roots are limited to the upper soil layers, webbing off in multiple directions.
It is different for dicots, the latter being furnished with taproot systems. These taproots penetrate the deeper soil layers and are usually thicker. The dicot root system comprises one major taproot from which smaller roots shoot off.
How about the leaves?
Isn’t it interesting that dicots and monocots have different leaf patterns? While monocots’ leaves have parallel veins, dicots have branching veins.
Lastly, the stem
Dicots are further distinguished from monocots by the arrangement of their respective vascular tissue.
Relax, the vascular tissue is no more than the plant’s circulatory system. This takes on the job of transporting nutrients to every part of the plant.
With the ongoing development of monocotyledonous plants, the vascular tissue is structured sporadically. Dicots have a more ordered arrangement, with the vascular tissue being arranged in concentric circles. This structure mirrors that of your jolly doughnut.
Great, now that you know how to identify dicots (from monocots), let me tell you about some of the most common dicot plants.
I admit it, my love for fruits gets my spouse jealous! We will be considering some mouthwatering dicot fruits like apples, grapes, and mangos.
Show me someone who doesn’t love an apple…I will wait. Famed for their juiciness, apples as fruits are derived from the apple tree (termed Malus Domestica). Indeed, the apple tree is the most prevalently cultivated species in the Malus genus.
Yes, apples are dicots. You can tell this from their flower and leaf arrangement. First, their flower parts – specifically the sepals and petals – come in multiples of fives.
Have you ever wondered why your apple looks like a star when you cut it into two? Because it has five carpels! As additional testimony to the dicotyledonous nature of apples, their leaves are net-like venation.
What if I told you about 6.8 million tons of grapes were grown in the U.S. in 2019 alone? Grapes are darling fruits derived from vining plants.
These plants are actually one of the estimated 60 species of the genus Vitis in the Vitaceae flowering plant family. The family, Vitaceae, happens to be a dicotyledonous flowering plant family also consisting of the Virginia Creeper.
Vining plants have double cotyledons. They enjoy secondary growth, a signature privilege of dicots, and their stems are arranged in a vascular bundle. What more, the leaves have netted venation, with the flowering coming in multiples of fours and fives.
Come on, I don’t need to introduce you to mangos; they are quite a household name. The mango seed itself is dicotyledonous.
This can be readily seen from its deeply penetrating taproots. The mango’s tap root can grow as deep as 20ft into the soil. From the main tap root, other feeder roots shoot off with varying depths of penetration.
The leaves retain that adorable green coloration all year. These leaves are long and alternate. Each mango flower comprises 5 petals with a length spectrum of 0.20–0.39 in.
Alright, enough of dicot fruits, how about we graduate into dicot trees?
The most common dicot trees include the oak, chestnut, and the Quacking Aspen. Of course, I was going to tell you more about them.
Ready for the surprise of the year? Oaks live up to 1000 years! What’s more, oaks produce about 10 million acorns across their lifetime.
Acorns are the fruits of the tree-shaped cups, usually containing anywhere from 1-3 seeds. Well, there are about 500 oaks species extinct as of today. Depending on the oak species, one acorn seed can mature as early as the sixth month or as late as the eighteenth month.
Oaks are classified as non-magnoliid dicots. Previously referred to as tricolpates, oaks belong to a natural group of flowering plants with two seeds when they germinate.
The oak’s leaves are arranged in spirals. In some cases, the full leave is adorned with smooth margins, and in others, you have serrated leaves.
From stuffing cranberries to working them deliciously into your salads, there are a million and one reasons to love chestnuts. This dicotyledon has four major species.
These are the Japanese, Chinese, American, and European chestnuts. The shortest of the four are Japanese chestnuts, which usually have a height average of 10 meters. The tallest is the European chestnuts, coming at about 30m.
The chestnut’s leaves are ovate, with a width range of 4-10 cm. These leaves have sharp extremes, with the teeth appreciably spaced. Each flower consists of eight stamens. Commonly, you find double cotyledons in the interior of the fruits.
The Quacking Aspen is another dicot tree worth mentioning. Also referred to as the trembling aspen or the golden aspen, this tree’s leaves are shaped in the form of hearts.
The Quaking Aspen is another dicot tree worth mentioning. Also referred to as the trembling aspen or the golden aspen, this tree’s leaves are shaped in the form of hearts.
They come in diameter ranging from 1-3 inches. The flowers are about 3-8 cm long.
Vegetables are fantastic. Not only for their culinary value but also for their medicinal essence. Let us talk about some dicot vegetables.
Soybean, also commonly called soya bean is famed for its edibility and versatility in its broad range of uses. As a legume, soybeans are closely associated with the likes of peas and clover.
The soybean is a dicotyledonous plant. Each plant produces anywhere from 60-80 pods.
Each of these pods can accommodate up to three beans, each the size of a pea. The length of each pod ranges from 3-8 cm.
The fruit is typically a hairy pod that developed in clusters. In a cluster, you can find 3-5 pods. The soybean seed has various hull colors and sizes. Some of the prevalent hull colors include green, brown, and black.
Trust me, the last place you want to be is between me and a carrot salad cuisine!
Loving and edible, carrots have been feeding man for 5000 years! The orange part we cherish is actually the taproot, although it is fine to eat the green leaves as well.
The carrot is a dicot, with its first true leaf appearing as early as 10 days after germination. The leaves that follow this first one are alternate, with a spiral arrangement. The leaf base covers the stem.
As a dicot, the carrot has a taproot. This tap root is made of an inner core called xylem, and an outer cortex termed phloem.
The flowers are reduced in size and white, and in some cases, the white is tinted with yellow. These flowers consist of five stamens, five petals, and a full calyx.
This is a tropical and delicate plant belonging to the Solanaceae nightshade family. It is widely cultivated for its edibility.
On a botanic basis, the eggplant falls under berries, with its fruits packing many edible seeds, soft and a bit bitter. Such bitterness is because the seeds are clothed in nicotinoid alkaloids, as you get from tobacco.
The eggplant is prevalently purple or white, reputed for its sponginess and absorbance. Commonly, the eggplant’s stem is spiny. The flowers come with yellow stamens and corolla having five lobes.
This plant can grow as tall as 150 cm, with leaves that are 20 cm long. The semi wild variety can grow as large as 225cm, with the leaves even getting bigger than 30 cm.
Talk about flowers, and love is already buzzing the air! Mind to learn about some dicot flowers?
I don’t expect you to agree but for me, all beautiful dates start with a rose flower. With a romantic symbolism and charm, this pink shrub is adored globally.
Rose is a dicot plant, with its leaf borne on the stem in an alternate arrangement. These leaves are pinnate and tend to have a length of 5-15 centimeters, further decked with basal stipules.
While there are over 300 rose species, most of them have 5 petals. The only exception is Rosa sericea. The latter has 4 petals.
Coming under each petal are 5 sepals, with the Rosa sericea equally exempted with 4 sepals. Now, each petal is made of two separate lobes.
These lobes can either be pink or white and, in some extreme scenarios, red and yellow. The petals are long and can be seen from you looking at the flower from above.
As a genus, Alcea belongs to a mallow family called Malvaceae. This family is commonly referred to as hollyhocks and is native to Europe and Asia.
Alcea is a dicot plant with toothed leaf blades. These leaf blades are borne on petioles. The flower arrangement in Alceas varies.
They could be arranged in fascicles or be solitary. The petals – commonly notched – have different colors ranging from yellow to pink. These petals tend to be as wide as 3 cm.
The foxglove is a genus packed with about 20 species (all herbaceous) belonging to a family called Plantaginaceae. These plants are generally cultivated for their charming spikes.
They can reach a height of 150cm but are typically no shorter than 45cm. The leaves can either be oblong or alternating as you approach the stem’s lower region.
The foxgloves’ flowers are white, yellow, or purple. They are further adorned in the interiors with spots.
The bulk of foxgloves species are biennial. This means they only flower in the second year.
Why do dicot plants commonly grow into large trees?
This is a question I get asked most of the time. The generality of monocots are herbaceous plants that don’t grow too big.
Conversely, we have dicots coming in varying sizes and shapes.
You barely see monocots growing into big trees because they, most times, lack the support systems to sustain this enlarged size.
Such support is adequately found in the woody stem and deep tap roots of dicots. You don’t readily find woody tissues in monocots.
The trunks of most dicots are made of vascular bundles. These are packs of pipes (so to say) that convey food from the leaves to the plant. Yes, these pipes also extract water from the root and transport it to the plant’s top.
Such pipes keep getting reinforced; the dead stems are often seen as bark laced with new ones. Hence the trunk of dicots keeps expanding. This is the said secondary growth.
On the other hand, monocots don’t enjoy this infrastructure. Within a year, you see the entire stem dying and being entirely replaced with a new one, which is fleshy and soft. This is a fresh sapwood.
Therefore, monocots’ stems barely widen. Such a rather slender stem that can’t support a huge tree.
Dicots tend to grow into big trees because of their sophisticated root systems. Big trees need to dig deep into the ground to locate water and vital nutrients.
Most monocots end up with fibrous roots, albeit starting with taproots, which die after germination. These roots are too short and thinly spread to penetrate such depths for the needed nourishment.
Dicots’ taproots are fit for the task. They are strong and deep enough to satiate the water and nutrients yearnings of a big tree.