Though angiosperms and gymnosperms are both seed-producing plants of the Embryophyta subkingdom, they share many more differences than similarities. The most significant regards seed development. While angiosperms produce seeds within an enclosure, the seeds of gymnosperms are not enclosed.
The mature seeds of angiosperms, known as "flowering plants," are surrounded by the ovule, which may be a fruit or flower. Angiosperms are hardwoods, with most – including oaks, maples and dogwoods – carrying leaves that change color and drop off during fall months, although the rhododendron, live oak and sweetbay magnolia do hold their leaves. Angiosperms typically bear flat, broad leaves and rely mainly on animals for the seed dispersion. The roughly 300,000 angiosperms account for more than 80 percent of all living plant species found in the world.
The term "gymnosperm" is derived from Greek verbiage meaning "naked seeds," in reference to the unenclosed seeds found on scales and leaves or as cones. The non-flowering plants are largely comprised of coniferous trees: cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods and spruces. Commonly referred to as "softwoods," most gymnosperms remain green throughout the year; exceptions include the ginkgo, dawn redwood and bald cypress. Leaves tend to be scaly or needle-like, and gymnosperms are largely dependent on wind for reproduction.