The gymnosperms are a group of seed-producing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetales. The term 'gymnosperm' comes from the Greek word gymnospermos , meaning 'naked seeds', after the unenclosed condition of their seeds (called ovules in their unfertilized state). Their naked condition stands in contrast to the seeds and ovules of flowering plants (angiosperms), which are enclosed within an ovary. Gymnosperm seeds develop either on the surface of scales or leaves, often modified to form cones, or at the end of short stalks as in (Ginkgo). The gymnosperms and angiosperms together compose the spermatophytes or seed plants. By far the largest group of living gymnosperms is the conifers (pines, cypresses, and relatives), followed by cycads, Gnetophytes (Gnetophyta, Ephedra and Welwitschia), and Ginkgo (a single living species). In early classification schemes, the gymnosperms were regarded as a 'natural' group.
Contributions by MPF, Marshman, and Eichhornia.