Virtual Museum of Canada
Jardin botanique de Montréal 
Centre for Forest Research

Naked as a … cone

Conifers, which belong to the Gymnosperms (Plant with free and "naked" seeds, not enclosed in an ovary and not protected in a fruit.), do not produce flowers in the botanical sense of the term. Instead, they reproduce sexually by means of cones. The main difference between a flower and a cone is that a flower protects its ovules inside ovaries, while a cone displays them openly (hence the name gymnosperm, which means naked seeds).

Cones are never hermaphroditic: they are either male or female. Pollen from the male cone, even once it reaches a female cone and an ovule, still has far to go before its work is done. It must germinate and produce a pollen tube in order for fertilization to be successful (this usually takes place more than a year after pollination).

Photo of small beige male cones, highlighted, and of big red female cones, highlighted, of a tamarack (Larix laricina)
Larix laricina
© Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)