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Hopefully not a too-basic question for the venue. I'm a chile pepper growing hobbyist and have spent some time searching around and reading up on pepper (angiosperm) reproduction, but I'm not getting a clear picture of the details.

It seems like flowers have multiple ovules and it seems like one pollen-grain landing on the stigma leads to fertilization of a single ovule. And it seems like that process produces a single seed.

But that fertilization also prompts fruit growth and flower death and capsicum fruits have many seeds, never just one (that I've ever seen).

So, does each seed have a potentially different father? Or are the multiple seeds generated through a reproductive/cloning process that I'm not seeing written about? Or something else?

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No, the seeds are not genetically identical. Each seed come from the fertilization of an ovum with a sperm from a separate pollen grain. Since each pollen grain can come from a different plant, the seeds will generally differ from one another.

Additionally, even ova from a single plant will not usually be genetically identical to one another. This is because the process that creates the ova (meiosis) shuffles the genes of the parent plant on then places only half into the ovum. The same kind of shuffling goes on in the creation of pollen grains.

In the chili pepper genus (Capsicum), plants are predominantly self-pollinating. This means the majority of the pollen for the seeds in a fruit will come from the very same plant. This generally reduces the amount of variation seen in the offspring compared to complete cross-plant pollination. Some cross-pollination can nevertheless occur if there are other varieties in the neighborhood. The fruit will not show the effects of the new genetic combinations present in its seed, but only a plant grown from the seed will make the differences evident.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! So, it sounds like if I grew a plant in perfect isolation, removed all but one flower, and removed the anthers from that flower, and then brought in a single grain of pollen, I'd expect to see a fruit develop with a single seed? $\endgroup$ – clweeks Nov 2 '18 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ No more than one seed since the single grain might not be successful. (Also, the fruit might not develop due to not enough seeds being present.) $\endgroup$ – mgkrebbs Nov 2 '18 at 19:11

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