The Q&A Archives: Dicots and Monocots

Question: Is a sweet pea a monocot or dicot?

Answer: There are a number of way to determine if a plant is a monocot or a dicot.

Monocots have one cotyledon, the food storage structure in the seed. Dicots have two cotyledons. A good example of a dicot is a bean plant. A bean seed can be split in half lengthwise into the two cotyledons. Inside is the embryonic stem, root, and tiny leaves. Corn is an example of a monocot. Corn seed has one cotyledon and can't readily be split.

Monocots share other distinctive features: the veins in the leaves are usually parallel, and the flower parts (for example petals) are often in threes or multiples of three. Familiar monocots include grasses, corn, irises, palms, and lilies.

Dicots, on the other hand, are characterized by branched or net-like veins in the leaves; also flower parts are commonly found in fours or fives, or multiples thereof. Familiar dicots include tomatoes, squash, and zinnias.

With this information you should be able to determine if the plant is a monocot or dicot. (The best clue is the pattern of veins in the leaves.) I'm going to let you disect a flower to determine the number of leaves. I don't want to do all your homework for you!

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