Dioecious VS Monoecious

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Dioecious vs monoecious is a comparison you'll discover when you're looking into the world of plant biology. It helps to understand the difference when you're getting into the "nitty-gritty" of palms.

When you see flowers, fruit & seeds on plants around you - you've figured out there are differences among them. With plant reproduction, these are the two main categories: dioecious and monoecious. Understanding those differences can help you better understand the way each of them start their growth. That each have different patterns to follow.

Basic Dioecious vs Monoecious Meaning

These words, monoecious & dioecious, mainly refer to where the different gender types of flowers of a species grow on plants. Flowers are the sex life of monoecious & dioecious plants. Flowers carry the sexual reproductive parts of plants. There are reproductive workings that are unique to each, in the dioecious vs monoecious plant worlds.

So we'll dive a little deeper into this dioecious vs monoecious subject to discover the differences. Let's figure out these main characteristics of dioecious vs monoecious, and why or if it matters!

What are
Monoecious Plants?

You may have heard that palms are monoecious.

Think of the term mon (or the similar, more often seen: mono), which is from the ancient Greek, meaning single or alone. Essentially referring to: one. Then add a kind of slurring for the Greek word for house, oîk (os). Get the Latin combining letters  "i" & "e" in there. End it with the Latin suffix "ous."

Altogether you have the term monoecious. Which strictly means One House. Using house as referring to where plants live, how they live. Especially where the flowers will live.

House Drawing describing how Flowers Grow on Monoecious Plants

Monoecious plants reproduce in their own unique way. The majority of vegetation in the plant kingdom is monoecious, approximately 90 to 95%.

Monoecious Flower Types

Flowers Can Be Unisexual. Meaning they only have either male or female "body" parts. In plant biology, they call this imperfect. Sometimes called incomplete.

Those terms mean they only have one of the possible sexual reproductive parts within the flower.

  • Male reproductive features are termed androecium.
  • Female reproductive features are termed gynoecium.
How a monoecious plant grows

Flowers Can Be Bisexual. Meaning they have both male & female "body" parts. In plant biology, they call this perfect.

They also refer to these plants/flowers as hermaphrodites. 

  • Bisexual Flowers have androecium & gynoecium systems on the same flower. This is rare in the palm tree world.
  • Can self-plant pollination then happen?
  1. Technically it's possible. Yet cross-pollination is better for the health & strength of fruit/seeds produced.
  1. Therefore, plant evolution has promoted cross-pollination. Diversity made for improvement. Over the years techniques emerged for attracting insects. To carry pollen to different flowers.

Monoecious Palms

Most monoecious palm plants have both male & female unisexual (imperfect) flowers. They will be on the same plant. But arranged in different ways:

  • Usually male & female flowers grow on the same inflorescence. With a bit of spacing between the flowers of different genders.
  • Much less often, male or female palm flowers are set apart. Each onto their own inflorescence. Males on their own inflorescences, & females on their own inflorescences.
  • Most often, male & female flowers bloom at different intervals. 

Think of a monoecious plant's flower, such as a palm. It's possible for one flower to have its pollen transferred from another flower on that same palm plant. Beginning the process of forming a fruit. Which contains the seed.

Other monoecious examples are orchids, corn, bananas & grasses.

What are Dioecious Plants?

Two drawn houses for an example of how dioecious plants flower

Dioecious plants only have separate male and female plant individuals. The term dioecious comes from two Greek words which together mean "two houses."

This means some plants in a species only produce male flowers, while others in the species only produce female flowers. Does that make forming flowers & fruit a bit more complicated? Hmmm...

When you see a dioecious plant, it will either have male flowers or female flowers. This has people calling them a Male Tree or a Female Tree. Being one or the other, not a mixture of both. Depending on which types of flowers they have.


This can come in handy, for certain types of landscaping.

For instance our HOA, here in our subdivision, only has specific trees for allowable planting in community yards. Mostly for water conservation, as their approval aligns with our county's "Low Water and Drought Tolerant Plant List."

Promoted all around our county, since We Live in the Desert.

When we first purchased & moved into our house, there was what looked like a very nice tree in the front yard. We quickly discovered the problem with it. Always shedding stuff! Multiple leaves, twigs, branches & more - constantly. When it was flowering time, add them in.

Then getting nasty HOA letters telling us to remove the tree litter. Even though we'd do that all the time. In normal living, it was impossible to keep up with!

Large tree in front of a home in a neighborhoodWe Took Out That Tree! It Was Worth It.

It had such prolific shedding, we'd have to be on top of it 3X/day - Or more! No time or desire for that, thank you. We kept up as best as we could. But it was so tiring...

We had it taken out, replacing it with a nice dioecious hybrid male tree called a Red Push Pistache. A Chinese Pistache relation. It doesn't shed & doesn't produce fruit. It's deciduous, only shedding its leaves once a year.

Other examples of dioecious plants are holly, willows, and asparagus plants.

"Sex Life" of Dioecious vs Monoecious Plants

Flowering plants are scientifically called angiosperms. (As opposed to gymnosperms, which produce exposed seeds for direct reproduction. Think of a pine.) Angiosperms are then divided into these two divisions, dioecious & monoecious. Flowers are the parts of angiosperms that produce attractable features to help reproduction happen.

Sort-of like with humans, flowers are fixed up (biologically) to promote sex attractiveness! But with flowers, they don't directly attract each other - as with humans. They attract helpers as go-betweens.

If angiosperm plant reproduction is going to happen, a certain event must occur. Pollen from male flowers must somehow get transferred over to female flowers.

But it doesn't happen by magic! Sort-of. It is a magical process, in a way, though. Dioecious plants depend on the help of wind, insects, or other inadvertent helpers for their pollination. Monoecious plants also are pollinated with those same helpers.


Have you ever walked among bunches of brush, with bushy plants touching your legs & sides? (They're maybe even considered weeds!) Or through a field of flowers?

At certain times of the year. Especially springtime. You may find some yellowish dusty stuff on your jeans! You might have inadvertently been part of the plants' sex life!! Their helper. Whoa, you say!

woman in a field of flowers

But yes, you may have pollinated some of these plants. When brushing against the female individuals, your jeans collected some of the pollen. Then you walked by some of the males (and didn't even realize that!!). Casually brushing the pollen onto the female flowers.

Starting possible new life. Without even being aware of it.

Takeaway for dioecious vs monoecious Plants

In the end, it's often important for farmers, but also for gardeners, to understand differences of dioecious vs monoecious plants.

These differences can affect the way we all manage plants & crops.

However, Plantura Magazine said it in a very good way. They said, "categorising plants as monoecious, dioecious or hermaphroditic is simply an attempt by botanists to identify a system in the variability of nature. But no botanical system fits reality like a glove and there are, as always, exceptions that prove the rule. Mixed forms often occur."

Something to remember, and so not become overly focused on dioecious vs monoecious.

Dig deeper...