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Gymnosperm; Its Definition, Types, Characteristics and Importance
Gymnosperm is a common name for any seed-bearing vascular plants that do not have flowers. The name comes from the Greek words “gymnos” which means naked and “sperma” which means seed. It is contained in four phyla:
- Phylum Cycadophyta
- Phylum Gnetophyta
- Phylum Ginkgophyta
- Phylum Pinophyta
There are several types of seed-producing plants such as conifers, cycads, ginkgo, yew and genitals, which is different from angiosperm whose seeds are covered fruits are mature ovaries. Seeds are “naked” since it was not born inside a fruit. Gymnosperm are woody vascular plants with sporophyte-dominant life cycle, it can either be shrubs, trees, vines and some rare gnetophytes.
Most of gymnosperms are evergreen plants with long leaves, thin and needle-like leaves which are different from other plant leaves. It is believed that most of it was ancient seed plants that appeared in Devonian Period and ancestors of ferns. Living gymnosperm is scattered around the world, in the mainstream are the conifers that thrive in temperate and subarctic regions. The scientist has recorded that there are about 70 genera with 600 species of gymnosperm in the world.
General characteristic of Gymnosperm
Coniferous plants usually prefer low temperature that is why conifers abound in temperate regions and warmer countries. For example:
- In Philippines, Pine trees abundantly grow in Baguio, Bukidnon and other high mountain which have lower temperature than the lower regions of the country.
- In North America, almost 35 species of pine trees can be found out of 110 species in the world.
The “naked seed” of gymnosperm are generally located on the surface of the cone scales. At the tip of the pine branch are small cones and a larger female cone at a distance from the tip, some have cone scale with two seeds and other shows a mature seed with a wing. The winged-seed aids for wind dispersal.
Importance of Gymnosperm
Gymnosperm is approximately has 500 species that are rank to be the most economically important plants in terms of its various uses. Many gymnosperm species are very significant just like timber trees which are used for construction. Some are used for making furniture’s such as tables, chairs, etc. Some are good sources of food and medicinal products.
Gymnosperm also plays an important role in forest for it control soil erosion, watershed protection, shelter for wild animals and enhancement of aesthetic value for natural communities.
In terms of biological importance, gymnosperm also plays a vital role because of their diverse form and structure, and of their good documented fossil record. Naturalists have great interest in the tallest tree representative of gymnosperm:
- Giant Redwood with a scientific name ( Sequoia-dendron giganteum )can rise to more than 100 meters above the ground.
Gymnosperms have also a major economic uses for most conifers are used for lumbers. Some of these are:
In some manner, the common uses for gymnosperm are they are made/aid for the making of some commonly used products every day:
- Nail polish
The oldest flora in the world
The Bristlecone pine with a scientific name (Pinus longaeva) is the oldest biotic thing that was recorded to have age over 4900 years in the world. The bristlecone pine tree thrives on the slopes of the White Mountain in the Eastern California with three species of pine trees:
- Subsection Balfourianae
- Family Pinaceae
- Genus Pinus
These three species of pine trees are thought to reach an age more than that of any other living organism in the world. They can grow up nearly 5,000 years or more. It grows in dispersed subalpine groves at high altitude in dry regions of the Western United States and the name comes from the prickles on the female cones.
Some grows in separated groves just below the tree line, between 1,700 and 3,400 m (5,600 and 11,200 ft) elevation on dolomitic soils because of the dry soils, high winds, and short growing seasons, and cold temperatures and as a result they grow very slow. These very old trees are of great significant in dendrochronology or tree-ring dating that helps scientist as well to tell ages.
Are gymnosperms impressive?
The tallest flora in the world
The Giant Redwood or sometimes called the “big tree” with scientific name ( Sequoiadendron giganteum ) a coniferous plants is considered the tallest living thing in the world. It is found in a tapered strip about 300 km long on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada that ranges at an elevation from about 3,000 to 8,000 feet.
Today, the reigning tallest living organism in the world can be found in the Redwood National park in California. Coast redwood is one of the most valued timber species in the lumbering industry which is the sole living species. It belongs to:
- Genus: Sequoia
- Family Cupressaceae
This cypress plants are considered the tallest living organism in the world.
Related Articles that you can also read:
- Bryophytes; Its Importance and General Characteristics
- Ferns; It’s Importance and General Characteristics
References ; Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia , Science and Technology by Lilia M. Rabago Ph. D , Crescensia C. Joaquin Ph.D, Catherine B. Lagunzad , PH. D, Encarta