Conifers and cycads are gymnosperm plants because they generate cones as reproductive organs rather than flowers and fruits. The word "conifer" is derived from the Greek konus, which means cone and ferum, which means iron. In reference to humans, a conifer is any woody plant that produces small, seed-producing cones.
Many people think that flowering plants are the only ones that produce seeds, but this is not true. Conifers and cycads also produce seeds. They just do it in cones instead of flowers. A tree that produces cones is called a conifer; a shrub or herb that produces cones is called a cycad.
Why do conifers and cycads produce cones? When trees want to reproduce, their goal is to spread their genetic material as far as possible. For this reason, they produce many tiny seeds that can be carried by the wind or water to new locations. It is safer for the seed to be some distance away from its parent tree than in its vicinity because if it were close by, animals would eat it. So by spreading their seed over a large area, the tree can be sure that at least one will survive.
Conifers and cycads both produce seeds, however conifers are vascular while cycads are not. Both are angiosperms, however conifers generate cones whereas cycads produce blooms and fruit. Conifers and cycads are both vascular plants, but conifers are gymnosperms while cycads are angiosperms.
Conifers are a beautiful category of gymnosperm plants that generate seeds but no fruit or flowers. Conifers are named from the Latin term for "cone bearing," because they create cones within which they produce pollen (male cone) and seeds (female cone).
In contrast, angiosperms are a more diverse group of plants that include trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables. Angiosperms have leaves and/or flowers.
Conifers are more closely related to cycads than to angiosperms. Both groups share a common ancestor called the cryptophyte. Cycads are seed-producing plants while conifers are not. Thus, both cycads and conifers are gymnosperms. Conifers just don't produce flowers or fruits; their seeds are released into the environment when the cones disintegrate.
Conifers are important plants because they provide us with lumber, fuel, and wildlife habitat. There are three main types of conifers: evergreens, deciduous, and semi-deciduous. Evergreen conifers retain their foliage all year round, even during winter. Deciduous conifers retain their foliage during spring and summer but lose it during fall and winter. Semi-deciduous conifers grow most of their foliage in spring and summer then lose some of their branches in fall.
Conifers belong to the phylum Coniferophyta and are gymnosperms, or "bare seed plants." Ferns are non-seed plants that belong to the phylum Pterophyta. The zygotes then mature into adult plants known as sporophytes. Conifers reproduce via pollinating ovulation cones, which grow into seeds. Ferns reproduce asexually by producing new plants identical to themselves. There are three subclasses of conifers: cycads, ginkgos, and pine trees.
Cycads are large plants with soft wood that grows in tropical climates. They are native to Africa but have been introduced to other parts of the world. Their common names include coco de mer, date palm, and sago tree. Ginkgo trees grow in temperate climates and are the only living species in the genus Ginkgo. They were once considered the sole survivor of the ancient family of plant species now called Ginkgoidae. The name "ginkgo" is derived from the Chinese word for "smooth" or "clean". Pine trees are divided into two groups: needleleaves and broadleaves. Needleleaves are unique to pines and give them their name. They contain large needles that are used for sewing clothing and bedding. Broadleaved pines have leaves that are wide and flat. They are more common than needleleaves and can be found everywhere that there are pines.
Conifers are gymnosperms, which means they have naked seeds. Male cones, which are small and buried among the needles, hold the spores. The seeds are found within the female cone (pine cones), also known as the ovule, which is the pine cone's outer shell. When pollen from a male cone reaches an ovule, it unites with it to form a seed. Pollen needs moisture to germinate, so the male cones produce droplets of water when rain or snow falls on them. The seeds will then be dispersed by wind or water.
Conifers include both evergreens and deciduous trees. Evergreen trees lose their leaves but not all of their branches in winter. Deciduous trees retain their leaves through winter. Conifers spread their seeds far and wide to ensure that at least some will survive their exposure to the elements. The distance between trees of the same species varies depending on how long their roots can reach for food and water. Some grow very close together while others grow more than 100 feet away from their companions.
Evergreen conifers include cypresses, firs, and pines. Deciduous conifers include larches and redwoods. Conifers are unique among flowering plants because they reproduce only by cloning. This means that conifers can spread only if they are around today or yesterday. They cannot self-seed because they do not produce flowers or fruit.