Difference between Angiosperm and Gymnosperm

February 5, 2016 by Editorial Team

In biology, higher level plants are distinguished by an ability to reproduce with seeds. Spore making plants, or lower level plants cannot be reproduced without a watery environment, while seed-reproducing plants can live in a much wider range of environments. These seed plants are generally divided into two groups – angiosperms and gymnosperms. In this article, we will examine the differences between them.


All flower plants are angiosperms

Angiosperms refer to the group of plants that make flowers, and produce seeds that are wrapped in a protective outer coat. Flowers, apart from being beautiful, are highly developed reproductive structures, whose function is to produce seeds for reproduction.

Gymnosperms as depicted in the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary

Gymnosperms refer to the type of plants that produce seeds without a protective outer coat (the term means “naked seed”). Trees like pines, spruces and firs belong to this group.

gymnosperm life cycle
A scheme of gymnosperm life cycle


Biologists consider gymnosperms to be the oldest among the plants; they have been around since the Carboniferous period, which is 358.9 ± 0.4 million years ago. Angiosperms, on the other hand, are a younger species that started to evolve around 250 million years ago. However, angiosperms evolved into a much greater variety of different species than gymnosperms. The former make up around eighty percent of all plant species on Earth.

gymnosperm and angiosperm ovule
A side by side comparison of gymnosperm and angiosperm (right) ovule

Angiosperms are either evergreen or deciduous (trees or shrubs that lose their foliage during the fall). Gymnosperms, on the other hand, are mostly evergreen.

Angiosperms’ leaves are usually flat. Gymnosperms’ leaves, on the other hand, usually take the form of scales or needles.

Angiosperms are found in a large variety of habitats, and apart from being perennials, they can also be annuals, biennials, and ephemerals. Gymnosperms, on the other hand, are found mostly in dry habitats and they are by and large woody perennials.

While angiosperms are mostly insect-pollinated, gymnosperms are usually wind-pollinated.

As far as economic uses are concerned, angiosperms are used in medicine, food, and clothing production, among others. Gymnosperms, such as pine, fir, spruce, and cedar are extensively used for lumber. Other uses of gymnosperms include food, paper, nail polish, soap, etc.

Angiosperms’ reproductive system:

angiosperm life cycle
A scheme of an angiosperm life cycle

Comparison chart

Are youngerAre older
Are more diverseAre less diverse
SeasonalNormally evergreen
Leaves are usually flatLeaves usually take form of scales or needles
Found in a large variety of habitatsFound mostly in dry habitats
Used in medications production , food, clothing, etc.Used in paper production, lumber, etc.


In this video you can see a lecture that is focused on the differences between angiosperm and gymnosperm: