J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 1983, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (3): -.

• Research Articles •    

A Contribution to the Embryology of Ginkgo with a Discussion on the Affinity of the Ginkgoales

Wang Fu-hsiung and Chen Zu-keng   

Abstract: The ancestry of Ginkgoales or Ginkgophyta can be traced back to the Paleozoic. But today this order is represented only by a single species, Ginkgo biloba. Seward (1838) considered Ginkgo as one of the wonders of the world; it has persisted with little change until the present through a long succession of ages when the earth was inhabited by animals and plants for the most part far removed, in kind as in time, from their living descendents. Ginkgo is generally believed to be native to China, but so far it has not been found in wild state. A number of studies concerning the embryogeny of Ginkgo have been reported, on the basis of the materials accumulated during the past years and supplemented in 1978–1980, the embryogeny of Ginkgo is here described. Finally the phylogeny of Ginkgoales is discussed by comparing with the embryogeny of other groups of the living gymnosperms. Pollination usually takes place from the end of April to the first days of May and fertilization occurs around August 16–20 in the suburbs of Peking. Thus, the interval between pollination and fertilization is a few days less than four months. The embryo of Ginkgo is generally considered as suspensorless. In authors’ opinion, however, the somewhat elongated and much enlarged cells at the micropylar end of the embryo may be considered as the reduced suspensor cells though they are not the typical ones. There is no distinct demarcation between the proembryo and the young embryo in Ginkgo. In comparison with the embryogenesis in Coniferales, the tissue differentiation of the late embryo of Ginkgo is rather indistinct. Many authors such as Chamberlain (1935), Florin (1949), Delevoryas (1963), Sporne (1965) and others divide the gymnosperms into two major groups, Cycadophyta and Coniferophyta. From the point of view of morphological structure there are many significant common features shared by Ginkgoales and Coniferales. For example, Ginkgo possesses long shoot and short shoot while some conifers also have long and short shoots. The anatomical features of the stem of Ginkgo such as the well-developed secondary xylem, relatively small pith and the presence of bordered pits on the tracheids are also similar to those of the Coniferales. Not only Ginkgo has its characteristic leaf shape and the dichotomous venation but also they are quite different from the fronds of cycads. From the reproductive structure, on the other hand, Ginkgo and Cycadales are rather similar: both of them having one sulcate pollen grains, the pollen tube being of haustorial nature, the sperms being released from the base and not from the tip of the pollen tube, the presence of mulficiliate and rather large sperms, development of large female gametophyte bearing archegonia with exceptionally large eggs, more divisions of the free nuclear stage in the proembryo and less distinct differentiation of the ate embryo. All these features are primitive embryological characters. Thus, from the point of view of embryology the Ginkgo is close related to the Cycadales rather than to the Coniferales. Since Ginkgophyta are related to Cycadophyta in reproductive structures on one hand and similar to Coniferophyta in morphological and anatomical characters of the vegetative organs the Ginkgophyta are related to Cycadophyta in reproductive structures on one hand and similar to Coniferophyta in morphological and anatomical characters of the vegetative organs on the other hand, it indicates the interrelationship among these groups is clearly shown. Recently the discovery and studies on the progymnospermopsida (Beck, 1976) are worth notice, this fossil group contains the plants with certain characters of some conifers and certain characters of some cycads and this kind of plants bearing both homosporous and heterosporous forms are similar to ferns. They link the gymnosperms to the ferns. The present evidence, therefore, shows that the gymnosperms are very probably monophyletic and the progymnosperms might be the ancester of all the gymnosperms. The embryological characteristics supports the monophyletic origin of the gymnosperms.

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