To take your green thumb to the next level, you really need to understand the biology of plants and the botanical terms that describe plant growth, reproduction, and other aspects of plant life. Get started here with some dioecious and monoecious information that will have you impressing your gardening friends.
What Do Dioecious and Monoecious Mean?
These are some high-level botany terms. They actually have simple meanings, but if you start throwing these words around at your next garden club meeting, you’ll leave everyone assuming you have a Ph.D. in botany. A monoecious plant is one that has male and female flowers on the same plant, or that has flowers on every plant that contain both male and female reproductive components. A dioecious plant has either male or female flowers, not both. For dioecious plants to reproduce, a male plant must be near a female plant so that pollinators can do their work.
Monoecious Plant Types and Examples
The banana is an example of a monoecious plant with male and female flowers. The plant develops one large inflorescence that has rows of male and female flowers. Squash is another example. Only about half of the blooms you get on a squash plant will develop fruit because only half are female. Many of the plants in your garden are monoecious with perfect flowers, those with male and female parts in the same flower. For example, lilies are monoecious, perfect plants.
Examples of Dioecious Plants
A common example of a dioecious plant is holly. Holly plants are either male or female. On the male plant you will see flowers with the anther, and on the female plant are flowers with the pistil—the stigma, style, and ovary. The ginkgo tree is another example of a dioecious plant. In terms of gardening, getting dioecious plants to fruit may require more planning. So, if you want to see the pretty red holly berries, you need a male and a female plant. On the other hand, gardening with dioecious plants can give you more options. For instance, asparagus is dioecious, and male plants are more popular to grow. Since they don’t put energy into producing fruit, you get larger, cleaner spears. With ginkgo, you may choose a male tree only so that you don’t get messy fruit litter on the ground. Understanding the difference between monoecious and dioecious plants and knowing how to use the terms is not only a great party trick, but it can really help you make better choices in the garden.
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Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.