Cycads, Ginkgo trees and some members of the conifer family of trees are all types of gymnosperms. Gymnosperms range in size from small plants and shrubs to large evergreens that may reach 50 to 70 feet in height. Regardless of size, however, all gymnosperms reproduce using pollination and produce seeds.
Gymnosperms live in various environments and habitats. Some, such as cycads, live in tropical climates, while most coniferous gymnosperms prefer northern latitudes and cooler climates. All gymnosperms live on land and have special root systems and internal structures that allow them to conserve water and thrive in adverse conditions. Gymnosperms contain gametophytes and reproduce by dispersing seeds, which are often grown in seed pods. Despite these commonalities, cycads, Ginkgo trees and conifers look vastly different. Cycads resemble tropical palm trees in appearance with large palm leaves and central cones that contain reproductive organs and serve as breeding grounds for young seeds. Gingko trees, conversely, are a bit larger and originated in the rugged mountainous regions of China. These trees thrive in temperate climates and have inconspicuous reproductive structures. They produce fruits that fall to the ground when ripe, releasing seeds in the process. The seeds of gymnosperm confers, such as pines, firs, junipers and cedars, disperse through winds.