Differences between hermaphrodites, monoecious and dioecious plants!
If you are a gardener enthusiast, you may have heard plant species being referred as monoecious or dioecious. This classification designates the gender of plants and although at first it may seem a bit complex, it is really interesting to know!
First, let’s take a look at the plants’ reproductive organs. Both male and female organs are located in the flower. Male organs are called stamens and usually appear in a group. These pollen-coated structures are the place where sperm is made. The female reproductive organs are the carpels, where egg cells are produced.
The insemination of plants is done using nature as an element of intercourse: wind, insects or water transport pollen from a stamen to a carpel. Pollen grains enter the carpel and fertilize an egg cell.
The lines between the different genera are very blurred in the plant kingdom and the mechanisms of reproduction can vary greatly from one species to another, so we will explain only the most common forms.
Most plants have both female and male reproductive organs inside the same flower; thus, they can produce both sperm and eggs. This kind of flowers are called hermaphrodites and among these are some of the best-known plants, such as tomatoes, roses or peppers.
In some species, however, the flowers have only carpels or stamens, so we can distinguish between female and male flowers. Inside this group, there are two kind of plants:
- Monoecious: Species that present male and female flowers on the same individual plant. The most well-known example of this sexuality is on the conifers. Conifers have both pollen cones and seed cones on the same plant.
- Dioecious: Species where the male and female flowers are on separate plants (of the same species). The best example of dioecious species is the plant that brings us our beloved beer – hops! In fact, only female hops are grown and used for brewing as the female cones produce the alpha acids that give flavour to the beer.
As we noted, plant sexuality presents an enormous variability and, in some species, it is “flexible”. For instance, sometimes, hops can develop male and female flowers on the same plant, so hops crops are constantly examined by specialists to avoid the intrusion of male flowers. But if we had to go into the details of why this happens, the article would become endless, so we leave it for another time!