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Hermaphroditic plants: what are they, characteristics and examples

Hermaphroditism is a condition that is by no means exclusive to the Animal kingdom. In fact, in the plant world the appearance of hermaphrodite flowers is very common: between 75% and 90% of plants develop them.

If you want to learn more about plants that are hermaphrodites, join us in this curious AgroCorrn article in which we talk about what hermaphrodite plants are, their characteristics and examples of these vegetables and some diagrams.

You may also be interested in: Hermaphrodite animals: reproduction and examples
  1. What are hermaphroditic plants
  2. Hermaphroditic plant characteristics
  3. Examples of hermaphroditic plants

What are hermaphroditic plants

The sexual organs of plants are found in flowers and male and female parts can be differentiated:

  • The female part is called gynoecium and consists of stigma, which is where the pollen is received, style, which supports the stigma, and ovary, which is what will ripen and give rise to the fruit if the flower is pollinated.
  • The male part is called androecium, and it consists of anther and filament. The anther is the organ that contains pollen and the filament is a thin stem that supports it.

Taking this into account, we can say that a plant is hermaphrodite when it has flowers in which the parts of both sexes are found, also called perfect flowers . The parts of hermaphroditic plants are the same, just the flowers contain both sex organs. Not all the flowers of a hermaphroditic plant will contain both gynoecium and androecium necessarily; it is common for perfect flowers and single-sex flowers to coexist.

Monoecious and dioecious plants

Plants whose flowers are not perfect can be monoecious or dioecious.

  • In monoecious plants, a single individual contains flowers of both sexes, but differentiated, so they are hermaphrodites. The usual thing is that the female flowers are found in the lower part of the plant, while the male ones are found in the upper end, in such a way that they facilitate the transport of pollen by the wind.
  • Dioecious plants, on the other hand, are totally unisexual: each individual produces only female or male flowers, so they are always biparental or opposite to hermaphrodites. This is a strategy to avoid autogamy, thus ensuring the plant does not reproduce with itself and thus achieve a greater genetic variety.

Learn more about flowers with this other AgroCorrn article on The parts of a flower and their functions .

Hermaphroditic plant characteristics

These are the main characteristics of hermaphrodite plants :

  • As we have mentioned before, the main characteristic of hermaphrodite plants is that they produce flowers with the sexual organs of both sexes .
  • This allows them to reproduce much more easily, being an especially important mechanism in unfavorable environments for insects or pollinating animals. Some hermaphroditic plants, in fact, regularly resort to autogamy, that is, they pollinate themselves.
  • The autogamy of hermaphroditic plants can be forced, or simply coexist with the usual methods of reproduction, in a way that improves the chances of survival of the species without giving up genetic variability.
  • Some hermaphroditic plants resort to cleistogamy . This is a type of autogamy in which the flower does not even open its petals and sepals, but remains closed and fertilizes itself. It is a very safe method to ensure the propagation of your genetic material, although it renounces diversity.
  • Other species of hermaphroditic plants, precisely to avoid this autogamy, which may not favor some plants, resort to different types of self-incompatibility to ensure their genetic diversity . They can cause the gametes of different sexes of the flower to mature at different times so that they cannot self-fertilize, or that the plant has filters or other systems that separate its own pollen.

Examples of hermaphroditic plants

There are a large number of hermaphrodite plants that are commonly used in agriculture. Here are some common hermaphrodite plant names : tomatoes , bell peppers, and corn . Their main advantage lies in how easy it is to reproduce them, since they are not dependent on pollinating insects. In addition, some hermaphroditic flowers give rise to different fruits than those produced by single-sex flowers, sometimes more commercially appreciated. We talk in more detail about these examples of hermaphrodite plants :


In the case of tomatoes, with the scientific name Solanum lycopersicum , we are talking about one of the best known plants worldwide. Its flowers are hermaphroditic and self-fertilize. It does not produce nectar, as it does not need to attract pollinators, and its stamens are large and form a closed tube that surrounds the pistil, ensuring fertilization.

Pollen is shed from the stamens at any vibration or movement, whether caused by insects or by the wind, or even by human action.


Corn or Zea mays , another of the most widespread crops in the world, is also a hermaphrodite plant and is a monoecious plant. It is considered hermaphrodite because it can fertilize itself, but produces flowers of both sexes separately.

In corn, the male flower, popularly called the panicle, grows at the top of the plant like spikes, while the female ones grow lower, at a medium or low height on the stem. This causes that when the wind blows or the plant moves, the male flower releases pollen and can fertilize its own female flowers, although these female flowers can also receive pollen from the male flowers of another nearby corn plant, giving rise to this case to a hybrid.

If you want to learn more about how plants reproduce, here is information about plant reproduction .

If you want to read more articles similar to Hermaphrodite plants: what they are, characteristics and examples , we recommend that you enter our Biology category .

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