The result of fertilization is the development of the ovule into the seed. By the segmentation of the fertilized egg, now invested by cell-membrane, the embryo-plant arises. A varying number of transverse segment-walls transform it into a pro-embryo - a cellular row of which the cell nearest the micropyle becomes attached to the apex of the embryo-sac, and thus fixes the position of the developing embryo, while the terminal cell is projected into its cavity. In Dicotyledons the shoot of the embryo is wholly derived from the terminal cell of the pro-embryo, from the next cell the root arises, and the remaining ones form the suspensor. In many Monocotyledons the terminal cell forms the cotyledonary portion alone of the shoot of the embryo, its axial part and the root being derived from the adjacent cell; the cotyledon is thus a terminal structure and the apex of the primary stem a lateral one - a condition in marked contrast with that of the Dicotyledons. In some Monocotyledons, however, the cotyledon is not really terminal. The primary root of the embryo in all Angiosperms points towards the micropyle.
The developing embryo at the end of the suspensor grows out to a varying extent into the forming endosperm, from which by surface absorption it derives good material for growth; at the same time the suspensor plays a direct part as a carrier of nutrition, and may even develop, where perhaps no endosperm is formed, special absorptive "suspensor roots" which invest the developing embryo, or pass out into the body and coats of the ovule, or even into the placenta. In some cases the embryo or the embryo-sac sends out suckers into the nucellus and ovular integument. As the embryo develops it may absorb all the food material available, and store, either in its cotyledons or in its hypocotyl, what is not immediately required for growth, as reserve-food for use in germination, and by so doing it increases in size until it may fill entirely the embryo-sac; or its absorptive power at this stage may be limited to what is necessary for growth and it remains of relatively small size, occupying but a small area of the embryo-sac, which is otherwise filled with endosperm in which the reserve-food is stored. There are also intermediate states.
The position of the embryo in relation to the endosperm varies, sometimes it is internal, sometimes external, but the significance of this has not yet been established.
The formation of endosperm starts, as has been stated, from the endosperm nucleus. Its segmentation always begins before that of the egg, and thus there is timely preparation for the nursing of the young embryo. If in its extension to contain the new formations within it the embryo-sac remains narrow, endosperm formation proceeds upon the lines of a cell-division, but in wide embryo-sacs the endosperm is first of all formed as a layer of naked cells around the wall of the sac, and only gradually acquires a pluricellular character, forming a tissue filling the sac. The function of the endosperm is primarily that of nourishing the embryo, and its basal position in the embryo-sac places it favourably for the absorption of food material entering the ovule. Its duration varies with the precocity of the embryo. It may be wholly absorbed by the progressive growth of the embryo within the embryo-sac, or it may persist as a definite and more or less conspicuous constituent of the seed. When it persists as a massive element of the seed its nutritive function is usually apparent, for there is accumulated within its cells reserve-food, and according to the dominant substance it is starchy, oily, or rich in cellulose, mucilage or proteid.
In cases where the embryo has stored reserve food within itself and thus provided for self-nutrition, such endosperm as remains in the seed may take on other functions, for instance, that of water-absorption.
Some deviations from the usual course of development may be noted. Parthenogenesis, or the development of an embryo from an egg-cell without the latter having been fertilized, has been described in species of Thalictrum, Antennaria and Alchemilla. Polyembryony is generally associated with the development of cells other than the egg-cell. Thus in Erythronium and Limnocharis the fertilized egg may form a mass of tissue on which several embryos are produced. Isolated cases show that any of the cells within the embryo-sac may exceptionally form an embryo, e.g. the synergidae in species of Mimosa, Iris and Allium, and in the last-mentioned the antipodal cells also. In Coelebogyne (Euphorbiaceae) and in Funkia (Liliaceae) polyembryony results from an adventitious production of embryos from the cells of the nucellus around the top of the embryo-sac. In a species of Allium, embryos have been found developing in the same individual from the egg-cell, synergids, antipodal cells and cells of the nucellus. In two Malayan species of Balanophora, the embryo is developed from a cell of the endosperm, which is formed from the upper polar nucleus only, the egg apparatus becoming disorganized.
The last-mentioned case has been regarded as representing an apogamous development of the sporophyte from the gametophyte comparable to the cases of apogamy described in Ferns. But the great diversity of these abnormal cases as shown in the examples cited above suggests the use of great caution in formulating definite morphological theories upon them.