Do Plants Have Genders?

Everyone knows that eggplants are boys and peaches are girls. Except actually, eggplants are fruits, and a fruit is the "seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant," so technically, it's a female part. Think about that the next time you're tempted to use the eggplant emoji.

But is there really such a thing as boy plants and girl plants? There actually isn't one answer to that question. According to the Telegraph, most plants are hermaphrodites, which means that they have both male and female reproductive structures and are capable of self-pollination. Some of these plants will only self-pollinate, while others can self-pollinate or be cross-pollinated. Among hermaphroditic plants (also called "monoecious" plants), there are species that have "perfect" flowers (flowers that have both male and female parts) and species where each individual plant has separate male and female flowers.

Dioecious plants, though, do have separate sexes. They're less common than hermaphroditic plants, but they can complicate things a bit for gardeners. Pistachio trees, for example, are dioecious, so if you want to harvest nuts from your female pistachio tree you need to have a male tree to go with it. Asparagus and spinach are also dioecious, but their gender matters less because we don't eat the fruit of those plants; we eat the spears and the leaves. On the other hand, male asparagus plants do tend to be more popular with gardeners because they don't have to devote a lot of resources to making fruit, so they typically produce larger spears. 

With some plants, though, it gets even more complicated than that. Pampas grass, for example, are half hermaphroditic and half female. But the hermaphroditic plants are pretty terrible at producing seeds, so that means they're functionally male, which means pampas grass is essentially a dioecious species.  

And in case you're not already mind-boggled, some plants can actually change gender, too. So like gender in pretty much any sort of creature, it's complicated. Really complicated.