As the development of embryo and endosperm proceeds within the embryo-sac, its wall enlarges and commonly absorbs the substance of the nucellus (which is likewise enlarging) to near its outer limit, and combines with it and the integument to form the seed-coat; or the whole nucellus and even the integument may be absorbed. In some plants the nucellus is not thus absorbed, but itself becomes a seat of deposit of reserve-food constituting the perisperm which may coexist with endosperm, as in the water-lily order, or may alone form a food-reserve for the embryo, as in Canna. Endospermic food-reserve has evident advantages over perispermic, and the latter is comparatively rarely found and only in non-progressive series. Seeds in which endosperm or perisperm or both exist are commonly called albuminous or endospermic, those in which neither is found are termed exalbuminous or exendospermic. These terms, extensively used by systematists, only refer, however, to the grosser features of the seed, and indicate the more or less evident occurrence of a food-reserve; many so-called exalbuminous seeds show to microscopic examination a distinct endosperm which may have other than a nutritive function.
The presence or absence of endosperm, its relative amount when present, and the position of the embryo within it, are valuable characters for the distinction of orders and groups of orders. Meanwhile the ovary wall has developed to form the fruit or pericarp, the structure of which is closely associated with the manner of distribution of the seed. Frequently the influence of fertilization is felt beyond the ovary, and other parts of the flower take part in the formation of the fruit, as the floral receptacle in the apple, strawberry and others. The character of the seed-coat bears a definite relation to that of the fruit. Their function is the twofold one of protecting the embryo and of aiding in dissemination; they may also directly promote germination. If the fruit is a dehiscent one and the seed is therefore soon exposed, the seed-coat has to provide for the protection of the embryo and may also have to secure dissemination. On the other hand, indehiscent fruits discharge these functions for the embryo, and the seed-coat is only slightly developed.
Dissemination is effected by the agency of water, of air, of animals - and fruits and seeds are therefore grouped in respect of this as hydrophilous, anemophilous and zooidiophilous. The needs for these are obvious - buoyancy in water and resistance to wetting for the first, some form of parachute for the second, and some attaching mechanism or attractive structure for the third. The methods in which these are provided are of infinite variety, and any and every part of the flower and of the inflorescence may be called into requisition to supply the adaptation (see FRUIT). Special outgrowths, arils, of the seed-coat are of frequent occurrence. In the feature of fruit and seed, by which the distribution of Angiosperms is effected, we have a distinctive character of the class. In Gymnosperms we have seeds, and the carpels may become modified and close around these, as in Pinus, during the process of ripening to form an imitation of a box-like fruit which subsequently opening allows the seeds to escape; but there is never in them the closed ovary investing from the outset the ovules, and ultimately forming the ground-work of the fruit.