crab apple flower

Flowers may be bi-sexual (male and female parts combined) or unisexual (have only male or only female parts).  90% of flowering plants have flowers that are bisexual but 10% have uni-sexual flowers. The first photo shows the bi-sexual flower of the Crab Apple. It has male parts (stamens with filaments and anthers) and female parts (styles, stigmas and an ovary) combined into one flower. The second photo shows the uni-sexual flowers of a Goat Willow. These flowers are located on a catkin and are all male. The yellow anthers are ready to release pollen.

goat willow male catkin
black poplar male catkins

Some plants have male flowers on one plant and female flowers on a different plant. These are known as dioecious. (Greek for 2 households).

The first photo is of two Male Black Poplar catkins. The male flowers are arranged spirally all the way down the catkins. Each male flower consists  of several red anthers which will eventually split to release pollen grains. Male catkins generally release pollen before the leaves come out to aid pollen dispersion on the wind. 

Female flowers are on catkins on a different tree and are shown in the second photo, which is of a Grey Poplar. Each female flower has a green ovary and a red forked stigma. Wind delivers pollen to the stigmas and pollinates the flowers. In May the ovaries will become fruits full of seeds with long white hairs, which aid wind dispersal. Other dioecious species include Box Elder, Ginkgo, Holly, Juniper, Bay, Yew, Stinging Nettle and Red Campion. Ash trees may be monoecious or dioecious.



grey poplar female catkin
common hazel catkins

Some plants have male and female flower parts that are separated but on the same plant. These plants are known as monoecious.

The Common Hazel is a monoecious tree. The male flowers are on yellow catkins that hang down ready to release pollen onto the wind (first photo). There may be over 200 unisexual male flowers on a single catkin. The catkin is covered in scales. Two male flowers are located beneath each scale. Each flower has four anthers. The scale lifts and the anthers split open to release pollen when conditions are favourable for  pollen dispersion. After pollen release, the male catkin soon drops off.

The  female flowers are red and tiny and are located on the branch above the catkin. They are shown in the close-up in the second photo. The red stigmas collect pollen from the wind and eventually the flower forms a hazel nut. Alder, Oak, Beech, Birch, Hornbeam and Sweet Chestnut are other examples of monoecious trees.

common hazel female flower