Presence of more than one embryo in a seed is termed polyembryony. The phenomenon, first discovered in orange seeds by Leeuwenhoek (1719), attracted considerable attention because of its potential for application in and horticulture. Polyembryony is broadly classified into simple and multiple, depending on whether the supernumerary arises in one or more embryo sacs in the ovule. Simple polyembryony may be sexual or asexual. In sexual polyembryony embryos may originate from the fertilized egg and synergids, or by budding or cleavage of the polyembryony cells or suspensor of the zygotic embryo.
Asexual embryos are produced within the embryo sac without fertilization. Embryos may also originate from diploid nucellar or integumentary cells of the ode and grow into the embryo sac. These embryos are termed adventive or sporophytic. Multiple polyembryonies involve production of accessory embryos from two or more embryo sacs in the same ovule. For example, in the sea Island cotton, Gossypium barbadense, fertilization of egg in one embryo sac stimulates the induction of embryo from an unfertilized egg in the adjacent embryo sac within the same ovule. Thus, diploid-haploid twin embryos are produced in the seed.