Introduction to Gymnosperms.

Subject: Biology

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This note provides information about the features of gymnosperms with its type, its importance and about distribution in Nepal. Gymnosperms are naked seeded flowering plants. Gymnosperms is a vascular plant that reproduced by means of an exposed seeds or ovule. All gymnosperms are found in four major divisions of plants. The divisions are Ginkgophyta, Cycadophyta, Gnetophyta, and Coniferophyta. The Coniferales form the most conspicuous order of the living gymnosperms.
Introduction to Gymnosperms.


fig: Gymnosperms

Gymnosperms is a vascular plant that reproduced by means of an exposed seeds or ovule. The gymnosperms are the most ancient seed plants that originated during the late Paleozoic era. Out of 1000 living species of gymnosperms, about 20 species of gymnosperms have been known in Nepal.


  1. They are woody plants with no flowers but bear seeds on the inner side of scale leaves which are arranged spirally forming cone or strobilus.
  2. They are perennial and show xerophytic habit.
  3. The plant body is sporophytic.
  4. They bear tap root and form coralloid roots with blue-green algae and mycorrhizal roots with fungus.
  5. Tall, straight stem covered with scaly bark.
  6. Foliage and scale types of leaves are found that may be reduced to needle-like or large and pinnately compound.
  7. Oogamous type of sexual reproduction occur.
  8. Anemophilous type of pollination.
  9. Secondary growth occurs both in the stem and root.
  10. Conjoint, collateral, open type of vascular bundle in stems and radial type in roots.

Types of gymnosperms

cycas and pinus
fig: Cycas and pinus

All gymnosperms are found in four major divisions of plants. The divisions are Ginkgophyta, Cycadophyta, Gnetophyta, and Coniferophyta. The Coniferales form the most conspicuous order of the living gymnosperms.

  1. Cycadophyta:220 species of cycads are widely distributed through the tropical and subtropical regions. They are woody, long-lived and unisexual plants with coralloid roots.
  2. Conifer:With approximately 588 living species, this is the most ecologically and economically important gymnosperms group. Bear seeds within a cone or a structure superficially resembling a berry.
  3. Gnetophyta:One of the most peculiar plant groups with 68 species. It includes three highly distinct groups, genus Ephedra, genus Gnetum and third group contains single species, Welwitschia mirabilis.
  4. Ginkgo:There are one surviving species of ginkgo. It is a tree, sometimes attaining a large size, native to China but widely planted around the world. It is often referred as a 'living fossil' because nearly identical plants are known from fossils nearly 200 millions years old.


fig: Cycas

Systematic Position ( Five Kingdom Classification )

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Tracheophyta
Sub - division: Spermatophyta
Class: Gymnosperms
Order: Cycadales
Family: Cycadaceae
Genus: Cycas.

Occurrence: It is worldwide in distribution with nearly 20 species in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Australia. It is dioecious, primitive gymnosperms plant and shows xerophytic characters.

Morphology: It has a graceful palm-like evergreen shrubby habit. It lives for several hundred years with very slow growth. It has crown of leaves present at the top of the pillar-like the unbranched stem. It is sporophyte (2n ) and is differentiated into root, stem, and leaf.

Root: Taproot with lateral branches growing from a lower surface of the stem, positively geotropic and its function is fixation and absorption. Some secondary roots are also developed which is negatively geotropic and grows upward, stumpy, dichotomously branched and closed massed forming coralloid masses which are known as coralloid roots. It takes part in aeration and nitrogen fixation as it consists of symbiotic, endophytic blue-green algae like Anabene and Nostoc.

cycas coralloid root
fig: Cycas coralloid root

Stem: Tuberous in young but becomes columnar, unbranched, woody, stout, erect, columnar and arborescent and is covered by armor or persistent leaf bases.

Leaf: Spirally arranged leaves around the stem, dimorphic leaves i.e. foliage leaves and scale leaves foliage leaves are green, thick, leathery, and pinnately compound and consists of rhomboidal shaped leaf base, thick and wood rachis and lanceolate leaflets or pinnae. Persistent leaf bases, some leaf bases modified into spines, lateral veins are absent. Foliage leaves help in photosynthesis.
Scale leaves are small, rough, triangular in shape and brown in color, densely coated with brown colored ramenta. Lies alternate to the whorls of foliage leaves. At maturity, the male plant bears male cone and female bears female strobilus.

Cycas-Different leaves
fig: Cycas-Different leaves


fig: Pinus

Systematic Position (5 Kingdom Classification)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Tracheophyta
Sub - division: Spermatophyta
Class: Gymnosperms
Order: Coniferales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Pinus

Morphology: The pinus trees are 30m tall, graceful, evergreen, represent a sporophytic phase of the life cycle and plant body is differentiated into root, stem, and leaves. Stem covered with rugged scaly bark.

Pinus ( Twig male cone and Female cone)
fig:Pinus ( Twig male cone and Female cone)

Roots: Primary root persists and forms elongated straight tap root having a massive root system. It does not grow very deep. It possesses protective root cap at young but disappears soon, as the root becomes fully developed they are covered with ecotropic symbiotic fungus. It helps in water absorption. Mycorrhizal roots are short, thick without root hair and root caps but are branched and covered with fungal hyphae.

Stem: Woody, erect, and covered with scaly bark that is of two types.

Long shoots: They are normal branches actively growing by an apical bud are often called branches of unlimited growth.

Dwarf shoots: Arise directly from the trunk, called branches of limited growth that are numerous and borne on the ordinary branches in the axils of scale leaves. Consists of a short axis terminating in a cluster of green needles and is covered with scale leaves or cataphylls.

Leaves: Dimorphic i.e. foliage leaves and scale leaves. Foliage leaves are green, long and narrow needle-like borne only on the dwarf shoot and take part in the photosynthesis.
The number of needles in dwarf shoots is fixed in different species of pinus.

Pinus- Different types of follar Spurs
fig: Pinus- Different types of foliar Spurs
  1. Pinus Monophylla - One needle
  2. Pinus Sylvestris - Two needle
  3. Pinus Roxburghii, Pinus Khasya, and Pinus Gerardiana - Three needles
  4. Pinus Escelsa and Pinus Wallichiana - Five needles

Scale leaves are brown membranous and are protective in function, found on both types of branches and stem. They fall off as the branches mature. They are not involved in photosynthesis.

Distribution of Pinus
Some common species of Pinus are as follows:

  1. Pinus Roxburghii: also known as chir pine, khote salla or rani salla, abundant on the hills slopes in the Himalayas, 1500 to 7500ft above sea level.
  2. Pinus Wallichiana: known as the gobre salla, lies at the elevation varying between 6000 to 11000ft above sea level.
  3. Pinus Insularis: known as Khasi pine, grows in hills of eastern Himalayas
  4. Pinus Merkusii: grows in the eastern Himalayas. Its dwarf shoot possesses two needles.
  5. Pinus Armandi: five needles per dwarf shoot. It is a Chinese species.

Economic importance of gymnosperms

  1. Gymnosperms plants are usually cultivated in the gardens as ornamental value.
  2. Seeds of many cycads and conifers are edible.
  3. Pinus is the rich source of resins and turpentine.
  4. It performs photosynthesis and liberates oxygen in high altitude.
  5. Some gymnosperms plants yield essential oils that are used in flavoring agent and in perfumery.
  6. Many gymnospermous plants are used in making medicine for the treatment of a cough, asthma, and bronchitis.


  2. /Gymnosperms.html
  3. Vashistha P.C. Botany for degree students: Gymnosperms.New Delhi, India: S. Chand and Company Ltd.

Things to remember
  • Gymnosperms are perennial and show xerophytic habit.
  • The plant body is sporophytic and bear  tap root.
  • Foliage and scale types of leaves are found.
  • Anemophilous pollination and oogamous  type of sexual reproduction.
  • Four members of gymnosperms are Cycadales, Ginkgoales, Coniferales and the Gnetales.
  • Pinus bears scale and foliage type of leaves.
  • The function of a mycorrhizal root is to help in absorption of water.
  • Needle leaves perform photosynthesis whereas scale leaves help to preserve moisture.
  • Pinus  Roxburghii and Pinus Wallichiana are found in Nepal.
  • Some gymnosperms plants are used for making medicines like Ephedra.
  • Some gymnospermous plants yield  essential oils that are used in flavoring agent and in perfumery.


  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.

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