Ovules naked, rarely without carpellary leaves, usually borne on carpophylls, which assume various forms. The single megaspore enclosed in the nucellus is filled with tissue (prothallus) before fertilization, and contains two or more archegonia, consisting usually of a large egg-cell and a small neck, rarely of an egg-cell only and no neck (Gnetum and Welwitschia).
At an early stage of development a large cell makes its appearance in the central region of the nucellus; this increases in size and eventually forms three cells; the lowest of these grows vigorously and constitutes the megaspore (embryo-sac),which ultimately absorbs the greater part of the nucellus.
The megaspore-nucleus divides repeatedly, and cells are produced from the peripheral region inwards, which eventually fill the sporecavity with a homogeneous tissue (prothallus); some of the superficial cells at the micropylar end of the megaspore increase in size and divide by a tangential wall into two, an upper cell which gives rise to the short two-celled neck of the archegonium, and a lower cell which develops into a large egg-cell.
Each megaspore may contain 2 to 6 archegonia.
13, a) are developed in the upper region of the megaspore, each consisting of a large egg-cell surmounted by two neck-cells and a canal-cell which is cut off shortly before fertilization.
The endosperm detached from a large Ginkgo ovule after fertilization bears a close resemblance to that of a cycad; the apex is occupied by a depression, on the floor of which two small holes mark the position of the archegonia, and the outgrowth from the megaspore apex projects from the centre as a short peg.
During the growth of the cell which forms the megaspore the greater part of the nucellus is absorbed, except the apical portion, which persists as a cone above the megaspore; the partial disorganization of some of the cells in the centre of the nucellar cone forms an irregular cavity, which may be compared with the larger pollen-chamber of Ginkgo and the cycads.
The megaspore becomes filled with tissue (prothallus), and from some of the superficial cells archegonia are produced, usually three to five in number, but in rare cases ten to twenty or even sixty may be present.
In the genus Sequoia there may be as many as sixty archegonia (Arnoldi and Lawson) in one megaspore; these occur either separately or in some parts of the prothallus they may form groups as in the Cupressineae; they are scattered through the prothallus instead of being confined to the apical region as in the majority of conifers.
The tissue at the apex of the megaspore grows slightly above the level of the archegonia, so that the latter come to lie in a shallow depression.
In Welwitschia also the megaspore is filled with prothallus-tissue, but single egg-cells take the place of archegonia.
In certain species of Gnetum described by Karsten the megaspore contains a peripheral layer of protoplasm, in which scattered nuclei represent the female reproductive cells; in Gnetum Gnemon a similar state of things exists in the upper half of the megaspore, while the lower half agrees with the megaspore of Welwitschia in being full of prothallus-tissue, which serves merely as a reservoir of food.
The megaspore is filled with tissue as in typical Gymnosperms, and from some of the superficial cells 3 to 5 archegonia are developed, characterized by long multicellular necks.
The megaspore of Welwitschia is filled with a prothallus-tissue before fertilization, and some of the prothallus-cells function as egg-cells; these grow upwards as long tubes into the apical region of the nucellus, where they come into contact with the pollen-tubes.
The megaspore becomes filled with the female prothallus, the formation of cell-walls commencing at the pointed end of the spore, where from the first the nuclei are more numerous, and later extending to the base.
Thus the position of the root in Selaginella is different from what obtains in the other Vascular Cryptogams. A point of interest in this heterosporous genus is that the formation of the prothallus may commence before the megaspore is liberated from the sporangium.
In some of the heterosporous forms (Lepidocarpon, Miadesmia) the sporangia were sometimes surrounded by an integument; and since only a single megaspore attained maturity, the structure of the megasporangium suggests a comparison with an ovule.
Denticulata, young plant attached to the megaspore (enlarged).
Each sorus includes both microsporangia, with numerous spores, and megasporangia, each of which contains a single megaspore with a complicated wall.
These are with few exceptions foliar structures, known in comparative morphology as sporophylls, because they bear the spores, namely, the microspores or pollen-grains which are developed in the microsporangia or pollen-sacs, and the megaspore, which is contained in the ovule or megasporangium.
For an account of the further development of the megaspore, and the formation of the egg-cell, from which after fertilization is formed the embryo, see Gymnosperms and Angiosperms.
Mg, Membrane of functional megaspore, which is filled by the prothallus, pr.