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Asexual Reproduction in Plants: Advantages, Disadvantages & Types

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Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Plants are successful because they have evolved to have a variety of ways to reproduce. In this lesson, we will examine asexual reproduction in plants to learn the types, as well as the pros and cons, of this means of reproduction.

Types of Asexual Reproduction in Plants

Asexual reproduction requires only one parent. Since there is only one parent, there is no exchanging of genetic information, and the offspring are clones of the parent. Asexual reproduction in plants can occur in a variety of forms, including budding, vegetative propagation, and fragmentation. Let's discuss these reproduction types below.

Budding

Have you ever found an old potato hidden in the back of a cabinet in your kitchen? If a potato sits around for a long time, it will have many small growths, commonly referred to as 'eyes.' Each of these sprouts can be cut from the potato and planted. They will grow into a clone of the original plant that produced the potato. This is a classic example of budding.

Each of the sprouts on this potato will make a clone of the parent plant.
Image of a potato.

Vegetative Propagation

For an example of vegetative propagation, let's look at the strawberry plant. If you plant strawberries, you will notice that a row of plants will quickly spread into a large mass of plants. This is because they do a type of vegetative propagation by producing runners. Strawberry plants send out horizontal stems known as stolons. These stems will work their way into the ground in places and form roots, and eventually a new plant will grow.

Strawberry plants like this use vegetative propagation to reproduce.
Picture of a strawberry plant.

Fragmentation

A third type of asexual reproduction in plants is called fragmentation. This type of asexual reproduction is often used by nurseries and greenhouses to produce plants quickly. For many plants, a clone can be created by breaking off a portion of the stem and placing it in soil or water, depending on the plant. This also happens naturally when small parts of a plant fall off onto the soil and begin to grow into a new plant. An example of fragmentation occurs in liverwort plants, whose small stems or leaves are often broken off by animals or wind and then grow into clones of the parent plant when they land in the soil.

Liverwort plants like these often reproduce by fragmentation.
Image of a liverwort plant.

Advantages of Asexual Reproduction in Plants

There are many reasons why asexual reproduction can be advantageous for plants. One advantage is speed. Since asexual reproduction does not involve the process of gamete formation, it can be completed much more quickly, allowing the individual to spread its genetic material in a shorter period of time. It is also an advantage for small populations - if there is a small population of plants in a secluded area, there may not be an adequate number of plants to pollinate one another. In this instance, it is advantageous for a plant to be able to reproduce asexually. Finally, if the environment in which the plant grows is stable and does not undergo a lot of change, it is advantageous to undergo asexual reproduction; if the parent plants are successful, it is a good idea to make clones of the plant that can be successful as well.

Disadvantages of Asexual Reproduction in Plants

There are also disadvantages associated with asexual reproduction. The greatest disadvantage is the loss of genetic diversity. Since asexual reproduction does not involve the exchange of genetic material, all of the plants are clones. This means they are all vulnerable to the same threats, such as climate change and disease. One plant disease can wipe out an entire population of cloned plants.

A second disadvantage is increased competition. Asexual reproduction allows the plants to reproduce very quickly. This means the parent plant will be competing with a great number of offspring for the same nutrients, sunlight, and space. This often places a strain on the plants as well as the environment.

A third disadvantage is the increased likelihood for mutations. Since all of the offspring are genetic clones, it is more likely for a mutation to spread more rapidly as the plants reproduce asexually.

Summary of Asexual Reproduction in Plants

Plants have adapted various ways to reproduce in order to ensure their survival. Asexual reproduction in plants involves one plant reproducing without the exchange of gametes or genetic information with another plant. Some of the forms of asexual reproduction include budding, fragmentation, and vegetative propagation. These methods of asexual reproduction essentially produce numerous clones on the parent plant, ensuring their survival.

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