GYMNOSPERMS: a highly simplified taxonomy
Within the plant kingdom there are two major groups of seed-producing plants, angiosperms and gymnosperms. Angiosperms are flowering plants; the seed is usually produced within an enclosed space (ovary, fruit) which develops from the flower.
Gymnosperms are woody plants, mostly trees but some shrubs, in which the ovules or seeds are naked, growing on the scales of cones or conelike structures (not enclosed in an ovary). On an evolutionary scale gymnosperms are older than angiosperms; they are found much earlier in the fossil record. Far more plants—about 80%—are angiosperms than gymnosperms.
This website is primarily devoted to conifers, the largest subgroup of gymnosperms. However, there are a few pages about other gymnosperms: ginkgo, cycads, podocarps, and araucarias.
There is considerable taxonomic discussion about the lineage of groups within the gymnosperms which is beyond the scope of this website. For detailed and technical information an excellent and extensive reference is The Gymnosperm Database.
Fan-shaped leaves of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
CONIFERS ARE THE LARGEST SUBGROUP OF GYMNOSPERMS
Encephalartos trispinosus (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa), a cycad
Encephalartos senticosus, a cycad
Fleshy cones of a podocarpus grace this driveway in Berkeley, CA,
Retrophyllum rospigliosii, a member of the podocarp family, at the San Francisco Botanical Garden
Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria auracana)
Foliage of Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
Bunya-bunya (Araucaria bidwillii)