The key difference between cycads and palms is that the cycads are gymnosperms that are non-flowering plants while the palms are angiosperms or the flowering palms.
Cycads and palms look similar due to their nicely arranged fan-like leaves. However, when analyzing keenly, we can identify a distinct difference between cycads and palms. Cycads are more similar to ferns than palms. Also, though cycads and palms look similar, they belong to completely different plant groups. Cycads are gymnosperms referring that they are non-flowering plants. They produce seeds but they are not enclosed in fruits. On the other hand, palms are angiosperms referring that they are flowering plants. They produce flowers and fruits. Both these types of plants live in warm climates, and they are ornamental plants that are found often in parks, gardens, etc.
What are Cycads?
Cycads are a group of plants of gymnosperms that consists of three families namely Cycadaceae, Stangeriaceae and Zamiaceae. This group of plants includes approximately 300 different species. They have a similar overall appearance as palms. But cycads and palms differ with each other in many aspects. A characteristic feature of the cycads is the production of cone-like structures and colourful seeds.
Cycad’s reproductive cones are rosettes like, and male and female cones locate in separate plants. Hence, they are dioecious plants. Also, cycads produce naked seeds that do not enclose within the fruits. And the seeds open to the air and directly pollinated by special species of pollinators such as beetles. Furthermore, cycads are dicotyledons. Moreover, cycad trunk usually does not branch. Leaves are pinnate and directly arise from the truck and arrange in a rosette-like manner. For example, Cycas is one of the familiar genera of the cycads. Besides, the cycads thrived in the time when dinosaurs lived.
What are Palms?
Palm is a group of angiosperms that have a similar outer appearance as cycads. Palms belong to family Arecaceae of the phylum Anthophyta. It includes approximately twenty-six hundred species. They are flowering plants, therefore, they reproduce by flowers. As a result, these produce a mass of small flowers which pollinate by pollinating insects, and other agents. Moreover, they possess feather-shaped leaves.
Similar to cycads, they have a whorl of leaves at the top, and these leaves are evergreen. They have slender trunks often without branches. Leaves encircle the stem, and falling leaves make circular scars around the trunk. Palms produce fruits.
What are the Similarities Between Cycads and Palms?
- Cycads and palms are seed plants.
- Both types of plants grow well in tropics.
- They live in a range of habitats, from closed canopy tropical forests to open grasslands and desert-like scrublands.
- Cycads and palms are ornamental trees in landscaping gardens.
- Hence, we can often find them in tropical garden designs.
- Also, both prefer warm climates.
- Furthermore, they have an overall similar appearance.
- For example, both have a whorl of leaves at the top.
- Also, both have a central trunk often without branches.
What is the Difference Between Cycads and Palms?
People often confuse cycads as palms due to their similar overall appearance. But they are completely different, and they belong to two separate plant groups. The key difference between cycads and palms is that the cycads are nonflowering plants (gymnosperms) while the palms are flowering plants (angiosperms). Hence, the cycads reproduce through cone-like structures while the palms reproduce by flowers and fruits. Another major difference between cycads and palms is that the cycads are dicotyledons but palms are monocotyledons.
Also, we can find some difference between cycads and palms in their appearances too; the young leaves of cycads are coiled and the falling leaves leave a helical scar on the trunk. Whereas, the young leaves of palms are a small version of the mature leaves and the falling leaves make circular scars around the trunk. The below infographic tabulates the difference between cycads and palms as a side by side comparison.
Summary – Cycads vs Palms
Although cycads and palms share a similar overall appearance, they belong to completely different plants groups. Cycads are gymnosperms while palms are angiosperms. Further cycads do not produce fruits and flowers while palms produce fruits and flowers. Another difference between cycads and palms is that cycads are dicotyledons while palms are monocotyledons. Furthermore, young leaves of the cycads are coiled while young leaves of the palms never coil and they resemble mature leaves though they are small versions of them. Thus, this is the difference between cycads and palms.
1.“Cycads & Palms.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service. Available here
2.“Cycad.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Aug. 2018. Available here
3.“Plant Divisions: Cycads.” Tentative Plant Scientist, 15 Mar. 2015. Available here