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Gymnosperm plants: what are they, characteristics and examples

The espermatofitas plants are plants that grow from seed and are divided into angiosperms and gymnosperms. Although angiosperms are the dominant ones, gymnosperms are curious plants with unusual characteristics. For example, the production of bare seeds. They are cosmopolitan plants, but they dominate especially in cold climates.

In this AgroCorrn article we define gymnosperm plants: what they are, their characteristics and some examples , as well as their main differences from angiosperms.

You may also be interested in: Difference between angiosperms and gymnosperms

What are gymnosperm plants

Gymnosperms are vascular plants and spermatophytes , that is, they are produced from a seed and generate them. The same Greek origin of the word gymnosperms gives us a clue of its main characteristic: from gymnos which is “naked” and from sperma which is “seed”, therefore, their seeds are naked and do not develop in a closed ovary.

Gymnosperms are plants that grow in practically all areas of the world, but are dominant especially in cold and arctic climates , such as in the taiga. Learn all about what is the taiga, its definition and characteristics with this other post from AgroCorrn.

Some are also used as ornamental plants for their high quality wood. In addition, gymnosperms are very tall and long-lived plants, traits that clearly differentiate them from other types of plants. Next, we will see more of its characteristics.

Gymnosperm plants: characteristics

Its main characteristic, as mentioned, is the production of a seed that does not develop in an ovary , being plants without flowers or fruits . However, its flower can often be thought of as a limited-growing branch that can form cones or cones and that generate fertile leaves or sporophylls with an exposed seed . Their sexes are separated, so there are female cones that produce ovules and male cones that generate pollen grains.

Gymnosperms are very ancient plants. In fact, they were the first land plants to produce seeds and date from the late Carboniferous period . This was possible thanks, among other things, to the fact that in their reproduction they can do without water, being pollinated thanks to the wind.

Regarding their structure, they are woody plants with an arboreal appearance and that have roots, stems, leaves and seeds (embryo of the plant that results from fertilization). They are vascular plants , that is, they have vascular tissues that allow them to distribute water and other resources from the roots to the leaves.

Reproduction of gymnosperm plants

Male cones are made up of a scale and two pollen-forming pollen sacs. The female ones are larger and contain a scale with two ovules. Gametes are pollen grains and ovules .

During the reproduction of gymnosperm plants, the wind carries the pollen grain to the female flowers and the pollen tube penetrates to the ovule to give rise to the zygote after the fusion of gametes. After fertilization, the seed is formed and the female inflorescence transforms into a pineapple that after a while opens and releases the seeds , which will form new plants when they fall on the ground.

Gymnosperm plants: examples

There are more than 1,000 species of gymnosperms divided into 88 genera. Some are well known such as firs, pines, cedars , cypresses, junipers or araucarias. Some examples of gymnosperm plants are:


Popularly known as conifers , there are more than 600 species of woody plants. There are evergreen and deciduous leaves, generally needle-shaped. Some are:

  • Pine trees such as pines, spruces, firs, cedars, larches or hemlock.
  • Cupresáceas such as junipers, cypresses or sequoias.
  • Aracauriáceas like the araucaria.
  • Taxáceas like yew.
  • Podocarp such as lleuque or mañío.


This group includes several extinct species and only one living one. They are often considered living fossils. This unique species is the Ginkgo biloba . In addition, it is widely used as a medicinal plant for its great


Often known as cycads . Its appearance is similar to that of palm trees.

  • Cycas revoluta.
  • Zamia furfuracea.


They form vines or small shrubs , with short stems and scaly leaves.

  • Welwitschia mirabilis.
  • Gnetum gnemon.
  • Ephedra distachya.

Main differences between gymnosperm and angiosperm plants

Both gymnosperm plants and angiosperms are spermatophyte vascular plants (they produce seeds). However, the main differences between gymnosperm plants and angiosperm plants are:

  • Angiosperms have seeds surrounded by fruits, while gymnosperms have bare seeds.
  • Gymnosperms do not have the typical flowers of angiosperms, but they usually have cones.
  • Angiosperm leaves are usually flat, while gymnosperm leaves are usually pointed or needle-like.
  • Angiosperms are usually seasonal plants, while gymnosperms are usually perennial.

Examples of angiosperm plants

We also give you some examples of angiosperm plants so that you can see more clearly their differences with gymnosperm plants:

  • Avocado tree.
  • Sugar cane.
  • Ginger.
  • Daisies
  • Wheat.
  • Barley.
  • Peach or peach tree.
  • Apple tree.
  • Orange tree.

Finally, you may be interested in learning more with this other article about What are the parts of a flower and their functions . Also, here below you can see a video on this topic.

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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