Sporophyte Facts

The sporophyte is the spore bearing phase or generation in the life cycle of a plant. This sporophytic phase and the gametophytic phase occur in an alternate manner. Leaf through this article to get an insight about sporophyte facts and information.
BiologyWise Staff
Sporophyte is a botanical term that represents the spore producing, photosynthetic plant form. It is one of the two major generations in a plant life cycle, the other being the gametophyte. There is not much to talk about sporophyte facts. Multicellular plants that we see in and around our surroundings are all sporophytes. In case of mosses, the minute capsule that develops from the remaining plant body is the sporophyte. In the upcoming paragraphs, some facts about sporophyte are explained in detail, which you will find interesting to learn.

Facts and Information about Sporophytes

In sexually reproducing plants, the life cycle is divided into two distinct generations (or phases) - the sporophyte and the gametophyte. They occur alternately, i.e., one after the other. This alternation of two major phases in the life cycle of plants is referred to as alternation of generations. In algae, isomorphic alteration of generation with similar two life forms is observed, while the phases are totally different in terrestrial plants, thus they have anisomorphic alteration of generation.

Sporophyte Definition
Sporophyte is defined as the plant having two sets of chromosomes (diploid), which can produce haploid spores by means of meiosis. The spores are produced in a saclike structure called the sporangium (plural sporangia). Sporophytic phase is universally present in all types of true plants (herbs, shrubs, trees), some algal species and aquatic fungi. However, the structural complexity and size of sporophytes differ significantly from one group of organism to another.

Sporophyte Vs. Gametophyte
Actually, the sporophyte begins with fertilization of haploid gametes leading to formation of a diploid zygote. Under favorable conditions, the zygote then develops into a multicellular sporophytic plant, which continues to grow till maturity. Some cells of the sporophytic plant divides by meiosis (reduction division) to produce spores. Thus, sporophyte phase ends with production of spores by meiotic cell division. And this marks the beginning of gametophytic phase.

The haploid spores produced by the sporophytic plant germinate to form male and female gametophytes (gamete bearing structures). These are reduced structures that produce the ovule (female reproductive body) and pollen grains (containing male gametes). They produce haploid gametes by mitosis process (equational division). The gametes fertilize to form zygote, which then gives rise to the sporophyte. This way, the life cycle of plant encompasses sporophyte and gametophyte generations.

Sporophyte Generation
The sporophyte generation refers to the diploid plant, which is capable of producing spores. In life cycle of plants, the dominant phase varies depending upon the type of plant. Say for example, in the angiosperms or higher plants, the sporophyte (diploid plant) is the dominant form with inconspicuous gametophyte generation. In simpler words, gamete producing phase is very short. Though both phases are independent of each other, the gametophyte is literally dependent on the sporophytic plant.

In contrary to angiosperms, life cycle of bryophytes (e.g., mosses and liverworts) has a dominant gametophyte, and a short sporophytic phase. Over here, the simple spore bearing structure or capsule grows out of the female gametophyte, which remains fully dependent on the parent plant for water, nutrition and support. This sporophyte structure may be a simple capsule, or it may consists of a stalk, a foot and alike vegetative parts. Thus, the sporophyte or spore bearing structure is highly reduced in bryophytes.

Well, this was a brief overview about sporophyte facts. In a sexually reproducing plant, the two main processes that mark the beginning of gametophyte and sporophyte generations are meiosis and fertilization respectively. Truly speaking, all plant forms that belong to herbs, shrubs, climbers and trees, which we cultivate for different purposes are sporophytes. They have stems, leaves, roots and bear sporangia at maturity.