Gymnosperms are the oldest living group of seed-bearing plants in the world. From the Greek words “gymnos” meaning naked and “sperma” meaning seed, gymnosperms are a group of plants that do not produce flowers but instead produce seeds on the scales of cones or at the end of stalks forming a cone-like structure. These plants are considered living fossils as they have been around for at least 250 million years, once dominating the landscape and were a source of food to the dinosaurs. However, the gymnosperms’ slow reproduction which takes a year between pollination and fertilization, and the seed which may require three years or more to mature were unable to compete with the angiosperm’s shorter life cycle causing its decrease in numbers and extinction of some species.
Today, gymnosperms are represented by 12 families with 85-90 genera and approximately 1,079 species. Around 44 species of gymnosperms are found in the Philippines where 12 species from Cycadaceae family, 3 species from Podocarpaceae family, and 1 species from Gnetaceae are solely endemic to the Philippines.
A total of at least 780 voucher specimens of gymnosperms collected across the country and donated by different herbaria around the world are deposited in the Philippine National Herbarium. All of the four divisions of gymnosperms: Coniferophyta (conifers), Cycadophyta (cycads), Ginkgophyta (Ginkgo biloba), and Gnetophyta (Gnetum) are represented in our collections.