Characteristics and classification of Gymnosperms


Kingdom Plantae is a vast group which includes all the plants on the globe along with some algae. They are usually chlorophyll-containing, multicellular, autotrophic, primary food producers in the ecosystem. Kingdom Plantae is divided into many subgroups due to its vastness. Their classification is based on the plant structure, vascular system and seed development. Kingdom Plantae is subdivided into two divisions such as Cryptogamae and Phanerogamae. Angiosperm and gymnosperm are two groups that come under the subkingdom called phanerogams. They are seed-bearing plants with a vascular system. The Vascular system is nothing but the presence of vascular tissues like xylem and phloem which are required for the transportation of water and other nutrients. About 200 million years ago before angiosperm plants, gymnosperms evolved and they are considered as the primitive plant group. Angiosperms are considered a higher developed plant group than gymnosperms, due to their capability to adapt to different terrestrial habitats and the presence of more developed features like seeds, flowers and fruits.

What are Angiosperms and Gymnosperms?

Angiosperms are flowering plants, the biggest and most diverse group of the Plantae kingdom. Angiosperm is a word derived from the Greek words, Angio means covered and Sperma means seed. The plants of this group develop flowers and seeds. 80% of the living plants on earth come under this group. They have ovules surrounded by an ovary. After fertilisation of the ovule, it matures into seeds which then transform into fruits. Angiosperms are the most developed and useful group that can grow in a variety of environments such as herbs, shrubs, bushes and trees. Angiosperms are classified into two classes such as monocotyledon and dicotyledon. Plants with one cotyledon in the seeds are called monocots and those with two cotyledons are called dicots. The reproductive organs of angiosperms are the flower with a different set of organs within a flower such as sepals, petals, stamens and carpels. The male reproductive organ is the stamen and the carpel is the female reproductive organ. Unisexual or bisexual mode of reproduction is seen in angiosperms.

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Gymnosperms, the word originated from the Greek words Gymna means naked and Sperma means seeds. Gymnosperms include simple and primitive plants with seeds that don't have coverage and are mostly defined as the group without an ovary. Since the seeds are found on leaf-like structures and are not enclosed within the ovary, so the seeds cannot form fruits. The plants of this group are usually perennial and evergreen. They are woody and do not produce flowers and are seen mostly as shrubs and trees. The leaves are usually needle-like in structure. It is a smaller group with only 900 species when compared to angiosperms and is found throughout the globe. The absence of an enclosed seed coat is the reason why gymnosperms are found in fewer numbers. Cycadophyta, Ginkgophyta, Gnetophyta and Coniferophyta are the different classes of gymnosperms. Cones are the reproductive organs in gymnosperms and the gametes are found in these cones. Gymnosperms reproduce by the method of alternation of a generation where it has both haploid and diploid phases. Gymnosperms are of high economic importance to humans as they are used for paper, plywood, fuel for medical purposes etc.

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Examples of Angiosperm and Gymnosperms

Although there are many examples of angiosperms, flowering plants are by far the most prevalent. Fruit trees are the most studied example of angiosperms.

A few other examples of angiosperms are −

  • Grains
  • Grasses
  • Fruits like apple, cherries, jackfruit etc
  • Vegetables like potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes etc
  • Flowers like sunflowers, lilies, roses etc
  • Trees like magnolia, oak, maple etc
  • Timber plants like teak, mahogany etc
  • Medicinal plants like Atropa, Cinchona, Rauwolfia etc

Gymnosperms are commonly seen in temperate and boreal forest communities. Conifers, cycads, ginkgoes and gnetophytes are a few categories of gymnosperms.

A few examples of gymnosperms are −

  • Pinus
  • Cycas
  • Cedrus
  • Abies
  • Junipers
  • Thuja
  • Araucaria
  • Picea
  • Larix

Difference between Angiosperms and Gymnosperms

Angiosperms Gymnosperms
Angiosperms are vascular seed-bearing flowering plants whose seeds are confined inside an ovary. Gymnosperms are seed-bearing flowerless plants whose seeds are uncovered.
Seeds are enclosed within an ovary and on maturation, it is fruit shaped Gymnosperms seeds are exposed and usually are seen in the form of a cone
Mostly have a seasonal life cycle because they shed their leaves during the autumn season, but some are perennial and biennials Plants of this group are evergreen
Angiosperms have triploid tissue Presence of haploid tissues
Leaves are parallel, flat in a structure attached to the stem Leaves are either needle or scale-like in shape
Angiosperms are hardwood type Gymnosperms are softwood type
Reproduction takes place with the help of animals Depends mainly on the wind for dispersal
Unisexual or bisexual mode of reproduction Unisexual
Angiosperms are used for medicine, food, clothing and furniture, provides oxygen and maintain ecological balance Gymnosperms are used as ornamental plants, for making lumber, paper, gum, plywood, paint, musical instruments

Why are Angiosperms better than gymnosperms?

Gymnosperms are strong plants and have seeds that are exposed and get damaged easily by weather, animals and other factors. Angiosperms have flowers and seeds. These seeds are protected within the ovaries and the fruits help in seed dispersal. Angiosperms have greater diversity than gymnosperms. Even though gymnosperms are strong, the more advanced characteristics of angiosperms and their capability to adapt to a highly diversified ecosystem make them better than gymnosperms. Also, angiosperms are the primary source of all kinds of plant-based food and are also used as feed for most livestock.


Angiosperms and gymnosperms are two subdivisions of the Kingdom Plantae. Both are seed bearing plants but with many differences in their characteristics like the life cycle, seeds, tissue structure, flowers etc. Angiosperms represent one of the largest groups of plants in this ecosystem. Angiosperms have seeds enclosed within the ovary or fruit. While in gymnosperms the seeds are present on the surface of leaves and are exposed to the environment and can be damaged easily. Angiosperms can survive in various habitats and are more advanced than gymnosperms. Gymnosperms are mainly seen in tropical climates and are of great economic benefit to mankind. Angiosperms provide plant based food whereas gymnosperms are usually processed into products of economic importance to mankind like plywood, paper etc.


Q1. Oldest Gymnosperm in the world?

Ans. Bristlecone Pines

Q2. Which plant is called the living fossil?

Ans. Cycas of the gymnosperm group is called the living fossil.

Q3. Are flowers and cones the same?

Ans. Yes both are the reproductive structure of angiosperms and gymnosperms

Q4. Which is the dominant form of plant life?


Q5. Which is the smallest angiosperm?

Ans. Wolffia is the smallest angiosperm