Just as gender plays a large part in the human world, it’s an important fact of life for trees. Although tree reproduction doesn’t always depend on the presence of male and female, it’s something you need to know about if you have (or would like to have) trees on your land.
In this article, we give you an introduction to the issue of gender in trees, and provide you with a quick-start guide to recognising male and female flower parts.
Male and Female Trees – a Complex Truth
In trees, gender is a more complex issue than we’re used to understanding from a human perspective.
For some tree species, such as cedar, ash, mulberry and yew, the matter is relatively straightforward: they bear distinctly male and female flowers on separate plants. This type of ‘gendered’ tree is termed dioecious, a term derived from the ancient Greek for “two households”.
However, most tree species are monoecious, meaning that they bear female and male flowers on the same plant. Birch, oak, pine, hornbeam and fig trees all fall into this category.
To give the topic a further, intriguing twist, some trees produce what are called ‘perfect’ flowers: they have both male and female parts in a single bloom. This phenomenon tends to be quite common in hazelnut and apple trees.
How to Tell Whether Your Trees Are Male or Female
Or more accurately (given that the majority are monoecious), we advise you how to tell whether the flowers on your trees are proportionately more male or more female.
First of all, get a head start before flowering season by doing some research to help you become familiar with flower anatomy and gender issues in the tree species on your land. You’ll find out that male flowers have a stamen, a structure consisting of thin filaments topped by the pollen-containing anthers.
Female flowers have a stigma—the structure which receives the pollen—and a style, which is the ‘chute’ for conveying pollen to the ovary.
Why Does Tree Gender Matter?
You’ll find it especially interesting to discover whether your trees have more male or female flowers if you’re a hayfever sufferer whose allergy is set off by tree pollen.
Male flowers mean pollen, the very substance responsible for those painfully itchy eyes and titanic bouts of sneezing.
If you’re planning new trees for your land, it might be wise to opt for dioecious female trees: these don’t produce pollen and therefore won’t worsen your allergy.
If you have fruit trees you’ll also find tree gender to be an important subject, because in order to grow fruit you need pollination.
This means a reasonable ratio of male to female flowers, situated within a fairly small distance of one another, because pollen can’t travel far by itself. Sometimes, even perfect flowers have trouble with pollination and need a little help from the insect world.
Has this article whetted your appetite for more information? You can get one-to-one advice from a qualified tree surgeon by calling us on 07771 332 149.