The Life of Black Pepper

Life Cycle


     Angiosperms, just like most other plants, exhibit an alternation of generations between sporophytic and gametophytic stages.  The plants most familiar to us as humans, such as trees, berries, and vegetables, are existing in a dominant sporophyte form.


     Male and female sporophytes produce flowers and engage in sexual reproduction producing sperm and eggs, respectively.  The gametophyte generation is microscopic and develops within the flower as either microspores (pollen) or macrospores (ovules).  Microspores (sperm containing pollen) are released and carried through various means to the stigma of the flower (either itself or another plant).  The pollen grain transfers the sperm through a pollen tube extending from the pollen grain.  If placed in close proximity, this pollen tube is capable of extending down the style of the flower and depositing sperm in the embryo sac.


     As this embryo sac grows it will be enveloped by the ovary of the flower.  This forms a seed coat over the embryo and results in a covered seed.  This seed will eventually be released from the plant and hopefully be carried by another organism or even the wind.  After reaching the fertile soil nearby, this seed has the potential to germinate and form a new plant.


Interactions with other organisms


     Like almost every plant, P. nigrum can't doesn't exist in solitude but is instead heavily dependant on other organisms in the surrounding environment for support, reproduction, and travel. As a woody vine, black pepper grows and thrives by climbing nearby larger vertical structures which usually amount to nearby tree trunks and rock faces. Growing vertically is essential for capturing the maximum amount of sunlight and avoiding drowned out by competing nearby plants. Black pepper has adapted to thrive in these heavily wooded habitats by development of these strong climbing abilities and through modification of its leaves resulting in a very broad surface area for photosynthesis.


     General reproduction of angiosperms and more specifically cross pollination with other nearby species members is integral to the diversification and survival of the species. Pollen can be transfered between plants by birds, insects, and any animals passing by which happen to brush against the flowers. Avoiding self pollination and instead reproducing with other members creates genetic variance and creates a greater buffer against environmental factors which could destroy an individual.


     As mentioned throughout this site, black pepper is also intimately involved with humans and is a staple of our diets across the globe.  To learn more about how P. nigrum contributes to the diets of humans, continue here >>



Design: Adam Haggerty - UW La Crosse - Last modified 4/16/2011