Cotyledons stage

What Are Cotyledons On Microgreens

Cotyledons are the first leaves that appear on a seedling after germination. These embryonic leaves are crucial in the early stages of plant development, as they provide essential nutrients to the young plant before true leaves form.

In microgreens, cotyledons are often the primary source of nutrients, making them significant for their growth and health. Understanding the role and importance of cotyledons can help in better cultivating and utilizing microgreens for their nutritional benefits.


Seed Anatomy

Seeds are complex structures designed to protect and nurture the embryonic plant inside. A typical seed consists of three main parts: the seed coat, endosperm, and embryo. The seed coat is the outer layer that shields the seed from damage and disease.

The endosperm serves as a food reserve, providing essential nutrients during the early stages of germination. Within the embryo, the cotyledons are located. Cotyledons play a vital role in seeds as they store food and nutrients that the seedling will use to grow until it can perform photosynthesis on its own.



Germination is the process by which a seed develops into a new plant. It begins when a seed absorbs water and swells, breaking through its seed coat. During this stage, cotyledons are crucial as they supply the necessary nutrients to the emerging seedling.

These nutrients support the young plant until it can grow true leaves and start photosynthesizing. Without the nutrients stored in the cotyledons, the seedling would struggle to survive and grow during the initial stages of its development.


Types of Cotyledons


Monocotyledons (Monocots)

Monocotyledons, or monocots, are plants that have a single cotyledon in their seeds. Examples of monocots include grasses, lilies, and orchids. These plants typically have parallel veins in their leaves, flower parts in multiples of three, and a fibrous root system.


Dicotyledons (Dicots)

Dicotyledons, or dicots, have two cotyledons in their seeds. Common examples of dicots are beans, sunflowers, and tomatoes. Dicots usually feature net-like veins in their leaves, flower parts in multiples of four or five, and a taproot system.

Key Differences Between Monocots and Dicots

The primary differences between monocots and dicots lie in the number of cotyledons, leaf venation patterns, root systems, and floral structures. Monocots have one cotyledon, parallel leaf veins, fibrous roots, and flowers in multiples of three.

In contrast, dicots have two cotyledons, net-like leaf veins, a taproot system, and flowers in multiples of four or five. These distinctions help in identifying and classifying plants into their respective categories.


What is the Function of Cotyledons?

Cotyledons serve several essential functions in the early stages of a plant’s life. They are responsible for nutrient absorption and storage, ensuring the young plant has a sufficient supply of food before it can produce its own through photosynthesis.

The stored nutrients include starches, proteins, and oils, which fuel the seedling’s growth and development.

Additionally, cotyledons support initial plant growth by providing the energy needed for the seedling to emerge from the soil and develop its first true leaves. This early support is crucial for the plant’s survival and healthy growth.


Lifecycle and Duration

Cotyledons have a finite lifespan, typically lasting until the seedling develops its first true leaves. This duration can vary depending on the plant species and growing conditions.

Generally, cotyledons function for a few weeks, providing essential nutrients during the critical early stages of development. Factors such as light, water, and nutrient availability can affect the lifespan of cotyledons.

Once the true leaves are established and the plant begins photosynthesis, the cotyledons often wither and fall off, having fulfilled their role in the plant’s initial growth.


Cotyledons can photosynthesize, though their primary role is to provide stored nutrients to the seedling. In the early stages of growth, cotyledons capture light and convert it into energy, supporting the young plant before true leaves develop.

This early photosynthesis helps the plant grow until it can rely on its mature leaves for energy production. While cotyledons are not as efficient at photosynthesis as true leaves, their ability to produce energy during the initial growth phase is crucial for the seedling’s survival and development.


Impact of Removing Cotyledons

Removing cotyledons prematurely can have significant effects on plant growth and development. Cotyledons are crucial for providing nutrients and energy to the young seedling. If they are removed too early, the seedling may struggle to obtain the necessary resources for growth, leading to stunted development or even plant death.

Additionally, without cotyledons, the seedling might not be able to photosynthesize effectively during its early stages, further compromising its ability to grow and thrive. Therefore, it is essential to allow cotyledons to naturally complete their lifecycle before they fall off.


Shedding of Cotyledons

Cotyledons naturally fall off once they have served their purpose. This shedding process occurs after the plant develops its first true leaves and becomes capable of photosynthesis. The true leaves take over the role of energy production, rendering the cotyledons unnecessary.

The shedding is a natural part of the plant’s lifecycle, influenced by factors such as the plant species and growing conditions. As the cotyledons age and their stored nutrients are depleted, they wither and drop off, making way for the plant’s continued growth and development with its new, mature leaves.


Examples of Plants with Cotyledons


Specific Plants with Monocotyledons

Monocotyledons, or monocots, include plants such as corn, rice, and wheat. These plants have a single cotyledon in their seeds, which provides the initial nutrients required for germination and early growth. Other examples include lilies, onions, and grasses.


Specific Plants with Dicotyledons

Dicotyledons, or dicots, include plants like beans, sunflowers, and tomatoes. These plants feature two cotyledons in their seeds, offering a greater reserve of nutrients to support the young plant’s development. Other examples of dicots include carrots, radishes, and oaks.