Gymnosperms Vs Angiosperms

Gymnosperms Vs Angiosperms

There are many people who think that conifers are a type of tree. Actually the plants are divided of …, true, many different ways and types, but above all they can be classified in a simple way: flower plants and plants without flowers. The first are known technically as angiosperms and are those that mostly inhabit the planet, which are recent but not as much as was believed ; while the latter are known as gymnosperms and are the first to appear on the face of the Earth, long before the dinosaurs did.

Or, so that we understand each other better: the angiosperms would be, for example, dimorphs, azaleas, trees (except one that we will later see), shrubs …; and the gymnosperms are all conifers, that is, pines, yew trees, cedar, and also all cycads such as Cyca revoluta . In addition to the form of reproduction, they have other differences to consider.


The gymnosperms have different characteristics to angiosperms. So roughly they are differentiated by:

  • The leaves are usually thin, like “hairs”. Most of these plants are perennial, which means that they do not lose their leaves in winter, but they lose them little by little throughout the year.
  • The fruit in most species is a kind of pineapple as seen in the photo, or as “balls” inside which are the seeds.
  • In general, to achieve a high percentage of germination, we will have to stratify the seeds for 2-3 months in the refrigerator at 6º.

Gymnosperms are the most primitive plants that exist. They made their appearance in the Carboniferous period, more than 350 million years ago . They are, then, the simplest, but no less surprising. In fact, they can grow all over the world, from 72 degrees North to 55 degrees South, from very close to the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic tundra, we can even find species living along the coast.

Characteristics of gymnosperms

Which are your principal characteristics? These:

  • The seed is nude from the first moment in which the flower, which is a branch of limited growth producing fertile leaves or ” sporophytes ”, is pollinated.
  • Most species are evergreen, which means they are always green. There are some that renew them little by little throughout the year, but there are others that do it every 2-3 years or even more.
  • They are able to transport water better than angiosperms, since they have tracheids in their xylem. The tracheids are elongated cells whose limbs are sharp in bevel, which are found in the xylem, through which the crude sap circulates.
  • They take a long time to reproduce. On average, a year must pass from pollination to fertilization, and the maturation of the seed may take three years.
  • The flowers of these plants are pollinated only by the wind, with the exception of the Cycads.

Examples of Gymnosperms

Balantium antarcticum


This is a lovely tree fern native to New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, Australia. He remembers the palm tree a lot, but it has nothing to do with it. This plant reaches a height of about 15 meters , but do not usually exceed 5 meters.

They are formed by an erect rhizome that forms a trunk, whose base is covered by villi, and which is crowned by large fronds (leaves), 2-6 meters and rough texture. It is ideal to have in a pot or in shade gardens , where they can enjoy mild-temperate climates.

Ginkgo biloba


It is a prehistoric tree that lived with the largest reptiles that Earth has seen, the dinosaurs . They have survived a massive mass extinction, climatic changes of the time and it is for all this that we can now enjoy this incredible tree.

It reaches a height of about 35 meters, with deciduous leaves that fall in autumn after dyeing yellowish orange . It is believed to be native to East Asia; however, today it is found in all the temperate regions of the world, since it supports temperatures from 35ºC to -15ºC. In addition, it can live more than 2500 years.

As we said before, the trees belong to the family of angiosperms, except Ginkgo biloba . This is a tree that does not have flowers with petals, but that exposes the ovules and, once they are fertilized, they mature and become the seed . Curious, right?

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens

It is one of the highest and longest living conifers in the world originating from the Pacific Coast of North America, in the west of the country. It is one of those plants that, to be able to return and enjoy it in all its splendor, you have to raise your eyes a lot: you can reach 115 meters .

Although it is not a species that we recommend to have in gardens, having a slow growth rate (about 5cm per year) can be grown without problems if you live in an area with a temperate-cold climate. Their life expectancy is also worthy of admiration: 3,000-year-old specimens have been found .


Angiosperm plants are much more ” modern ”. They began their evolution about 130 million years ago , in the Lower Cretaceous. They have been quite an achievement of nature, which until then had no way to protect their seeds. With the arrival of these wonderful plants, the new generations have it much easier.

The angiosperms are all those plants that produce flowers and then fruits with seeds. In this type of plants we can find trees, palms, seasonal plants, vivacious, … in short, the ones we usually see in many gardens.

In the case of these plants, the ovule is protected , and after being fertilized it becomes the fruit.

Characteristics of angiosperms

Its main characteristics are the following :

  • The seeds, previously naked, are now protected within a fruit.
  • The flowers are much more striking, since they need the animals and pollinating insects to reproduce.
  • They dominate, above all, the tropical forests, although they can also grow in temperate climates.
  • Its life cycle is from a few weeks to several hundred years, depending on the evolution of each species.

Examples of angiosperm plants

Copiapoa humilis


The cactus, although they seem to be a very different type of plants to which we are accustomed to see, the reality is that they are angiosperms. La Copiapoa humilis , one of the easiest to find for sale, is, like all of its kind, originally from Chile.

It has a more or less spherical shape, and produces many shoots up to 20cm in height . The small florets are yellow and sprout in summer.

Delonix regia

The Delonix regia is one of the most cultivated trees in all the tropical regions of the world. Originally from Madagascar, it is characterized by having an aparasolate cup formed by leaves that behave as perennials or semi-deciduous or deciduous depending on the conditions that exist in the place where it is located.

It reaches a height of up to 12 meters , with large flowers of four red or orange petals which sprout in spring. It is a very advisable plant for medium-sized gardens, where frosts do not occur.

Gazania Rigens

Gazania Rigens

The Gazania is a perennial herb native to South Africa and Mozambique that, although not exceeding 30cm in height, is one of the most curious we can find for sale in nurseries and garden stores: its flowers, reminiscent of those of Daisies, open with the sun and close when you put this one . On cloudy days, the petals remain closed because they do not receive enough light.

For its size, you can have both in pot and in the garden . Of course, you need frequent watering and mild climates to survive.

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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