What Are Non-Flowering Plants? List of Examples & How They Reproduce

In the botanical world, there is a wide variety of plant species that make up our natural habitats and landscapes. While many are known for their vibrant flowers, not all plants produce these reproductive structures.

Non-flowering plants are an important group of plants that are unique in their own way. They play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of our ecosystems and particularly essential to wildlife and humans.

In this article, I will go into details by defining what non-flowering plants are, look into different groups or types of non-flowering plants, their distinctive features, and their significance to our environment. At the end of the article am hopeful that you will have clear grasp of everything about nonflowering plants.

What Are Non-Flowering Plants?

Non-flowering plants, also known as gymnosperms, are a group of plants that do not produce flowers for reproduction. Unlike flowering plants (angiosperms), gymnosperms produce naked seeds that are not enclosed in an ovary or fruit.

Non-flowering plants mostly fall into one of these groups: Ferns, Liverworts, Mosses, Hornworts, Whisk ferns, Club mosses, Fungi, Lichens, Horsetails, Conifers, Cycads and Gingko. Gymnosperms are among the oldest living plant groups, with fossil evidence dating back over 300 million years.

Characteristics of Non-flowering Plants

  • Non-flowering plants, also known as gymnosperms, produce seeds that are not enclosed in an ovary or fruit. The seeds are naked.
  • They do not produce flowers.
  • Many gymnosperms are evergreen and maintain their leaves year-round.
  • Non-flowering plants exhibit a wide range of forms and sizes, from tiny shrubs or bushes to towering trees.
  • Nonflowering plants can be divided into two main groups: those that reproduce with dust-like particles referred to as spores and those that use seeds to reproduce.
  • They are not differentiated into ovary, style and stigma.
  • Some non-flowering plants such as pines can live for thousands of years.
  • Non-flowering plants are among the oldest living plant groups, with fossil evidence dating back over 300 million years.
  • Due to absence of stigma, they are pollinated directly by the wind.
  • These plants have vascular tissues which help in the transportation of nutrients and water.
  • Gymnosperms produce reproductive structures called strobili, which are the equivalent of flowers in flowering plants.
  • They are xerophytic, with sunken stomata and thick cuticle.
  • The presence of leaf scars on the stem is a characteristic feature of non-flowering plants.
  • The plant body bears two types of fertile leaves: microsporophyll and megasporophyll.
  • The number of cotyledons in a seed is one or two as in Cycas or many as in Pinus.
  • Xylem lacks vessels and phloem lacks companion cells.

List of flowering plants and their descriptions


They have a unique leaf structure called fronds and a characteristic pattern of growth known as fern life cycle. Ferns play an important role in the ecosystem, providing habitat and food for many animals, and also have cultural and medicinal significance in some cultures.

Some that you might encounter are the following: sensitive fern, royal fern, ostrich fern, bracken fern, rusty woodsia fern, and common, or golden polypody fern.


Clubmosses are called “clubmosses” due to their club-shaped stems. They are commonly found in moist, shaded environments such as forests, swamps, and bogs. Clubmosses are unique in that they have both leaves and stems, unlike ferns which only have leaves.

They also have a distinctive pattern of growth with shoots that grow from underground stems and produce new shoots and leaves. The stems of clubmosses are generally short, and their leaves are small and scale-like.

Three clubmosses that you should look for on the forest floor are shining clubmoss, stiff or bristly clubmoss, and running pine, also called ground pine or ground cedar.


Horsetails, also known as scouring rushes, are a group of plants that are recognized by their distinctive hollow, jointed stems and are commonly found in wet environments such as marshes, swamps, and riverbanks.

Horsetails have a simple structure with no branches or leaves and are unique among plants in having silica in their cells, which makes them abrasive and useful for cleaning or scouring.

Horsetails have a rich history and have been used for various purposes throughout human history, including as a scouring material, food, and medicine.

In some cultures, horsetails are also believed to have spiritual or mystical properties. One of the most common horsetails you will find in the waterway is a brushy species called field horsetail.


Mosses plants are small, simple plants that are commonly found in moist environments such as forests, bogs, and riverbanks. Mosses have a distinctive, soft appearance and are usually green, but some species can be brown or yellow.

Mosses have a simple structure consisting of stems and leaves, but they do not have true roots. Instead, they have structures called rhizoids that anchor them to the ground and absorb water and nutrients.

You will usually find them in moist places, such as swamps and bogs. Some common mosses you will see in the waterway are sphagnum, or peat, mosses in bogs and swamps, haircap mosses on damp ground, and pin cushion mosses in moist woods on soil and decayed wood.


Lichens are a complex life form that is a symbiotic relationship of two separate organisms:  fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. They are found in a variety of environments, from forests to deserts to the Arctic tundra.

Lichens have a distinctive appearance, with a crusty or leafy texture that can range in color from gray to green to orange. They grow slowly and can live for many years, sometimes even centuries. They have unique adaptations that allow them to survive in challenging environments.

Some that you might find in the waterway are the following: green map lichen (a crustose lichen that grows on rocks and ledges); lung lichen (a foliose lichen that grows on trees and resembles a lung); and old man’s beard (a fructicose lichen that looks like a gray-yellow beard hanging from the dead branches of trees, especially coniferous trees).


Conifers are, most simply, plants that have cones. They bear male and female cones that pollinate and spread. Conifers are typically (but not always) evergreen trees with needle-like foliage.

Conifers can vary greatly in size, from the giant redwoods being some of the largest trees in the world to moderately-sized juniper trees.

As for shape, some conifers grow in a traditional Christmas tree-shaped triangle, while others grow low and flat to the ground. Conifers include: Junipers, Cedars, Cypresses, Firs, Pines, Yews, Spruce, Larches, Kauris etc.


Fungi are a group of organisms that don’t contain chlorophyll and thus obtain their food from other living beings or dead matter. They consist of delicate threads, known as hyphae, which grow underground or invade hosts.

The collection of hyphae is referred to as mycelium, while a mushroom is a fleshy portion that generates spores. Mushrooms come in various shapes and sizes, including shelf fungi, bracket fungi, and puffballs.

Some commonly found species in waterways include chantarelle, clubfoot clitocybe, fly agaric, and king boletus.


Cycads also referred to as “living fossils” because they have been around for a long period of time. They have a unique appearance, with a stout trunk topped by a crown of pinnate leaves.

They reproduce through cones, which are either male or female. Cycads are typically slow-growing and are often used as ornamental plants in landscaping and botanical gardens.

Examples include: Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta), Queen Sago (Cycas circinalis), Fern Palm (Zamia furfuracea), Macrozamia miquelii and Cycas rumphii.


Commonly called maidenhair tree for its duck-foot or fan-shaped leaves that resemble maidenhair fern leaflets (pinnae). Their name is a little hard to pronounce and sometimes misspelled as ginko or gingko but overall, the tree is undoubtedly one of the most distinct and beautiful of all non-flowering trees.

It is native to China, but has been widely cultivated and naturalized in many other parts of the world. Examples or types of Ginkgo include: Ginkgo biloba “Autumn Gold”, Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterfly”, Ginkgo biloba “Mariken”, Ginkgo biloba “Princeton Sentry” etc.

Leave a Comment