Bisexuality in Flowering Plants

I feel as though this is a rudimentary question but when adding annotations to an observations, there’s only the option for male or female under the sex tab but some species of plants produce a hermaphroditic flower and there’s no option for that. Is my understanding of flowers incorrect? An easy example that comes to mind is Datura which produces bisexual flowers yet there’s no option to pick that it’s bisexual. :thinking::face_with_monocle:


I would think that in the case of plants that are “bisexual” (edited as I had misunderstood monoecious to be synonymous with usage here), selecting a sex for the observation is superfluous.

That said, some branches of our tree of life do apparently have more than two sexes, though that’s not an area I know a lot about.


Is it really superfluous though :thinking: if we’re using a community-based approach to making IDs shouldn’t we at least help further the amount of knowledge out there and show that it monoecious opposed to either of the two sexes?


Since that would be a trait applied to the species as a whole, it would be kind of a waste of time to add it individually to each observation.


I agree, it would be rather tedious and repetitive but it helps people know that the plant is hermaphroditic. And, to be honest, it kinda bothers me when there’s this gap when making annotations.

I suppose that annotation really shouldn’t show on most plant species, but since dioecy has evolved many times, there’s no easy way to set that up in the taxonomic hierarchy.


i think there are some less common conditions like like gynodioecy in wild beets (see where bisexual might be useful, but i guess it could be applied in non-plants, too.

that said, you might not want to make those annotations too complex just to satisfy a few less common cases.


“Bisexual” and “monoecious” are not synonyms in botany. “Bisexual” usually refers to the sexual condition of individual flowers, while “monoecious” refers to the sexual condition of the whole organism. If every flower is bisexual, then sometimes the whole organism can be called bisexual. For example, many Ilex species are polygamodioecious, meaning that while individual holly plants mostly produce either male or female flowers, and thus would appear dioecious, if you look closer, the plants also produce a small number of bisexual flowers. They might do this as a stop-gap measure to ensure that at least some pollination is possible in small populations. There are a dizzying number of terms to encompass the diversity of sexual expression in plants, some of which are listed here:
I think it would be difficult and confusing to include all these in an annotation box.


another thought: i wonder if people actually use the existing male / female annotations for plants for anything? i can’t think of the last time i looked specifically for a female flower or a male flower or tried to determine a sex ratio or anything like that. i can see people abusing a hypothetical bisexual option for joke IDs though.


The specific plant I have in question is Datura. To my knowledge, all flower are bisexual so I guess it would be a plant with hermaphroditic flowers. Would this equate to a bisexual plant? Thus, would the terms bisexual and hermaphroditic and monoecious are all interchangeable in this specific case? :thinking:

Yeah, sorry, I was being a doof and responding to the wrong comment.

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If they all always have only bisexual flowers, then I don’t think people would generally use any term to describe an individual Datura’s sex, since it doesn’t vary.


At that, why aren’t these terms used in iNat? Yeah, there seems to be a decent list of terms but there’re a few which are interchangeable. I just thought it was weird that iNat only has options for male and female.

You are welcome to add your thoughts about annotations here:

This is where staff is monitoring for suggestions to change annotations.


Ah, for some reason I thought “monoecious” encompassed both bisexual flowers and its actual meaning.

yeah, me too.

I personally don’t think we should add another annotation section (a field would be fine of course) for this, or in the least, it should only display for plants that aren’t always monoecious. Which is a big mess to untangle

I think adding a whole bunch of reproductive terminology for plants would be overkill and confusing to most people except for the dedicated botanists. However, I’m missing something equivalent to the phenology annotations for non-flowering plants. So maybe if there is to be an annotation applied to all plants it could be reproductive vs. vegetative life cycle stages. Male/female only applies to some plants but not all so it seems odd to have it as an annotation option for all of them and only allow one choice. It might work better if it was possible to choose both male and female if both structures are shown, similar to how you can choose two or more options for phenology for one observation.


This is a little bit of a tangent, but there are also plants that have completely different male and female flowers, but they still appear on the same plant, or even the same inflorescence. How would you annotate such a scenario? (the genus I’m thinking of is Catasetum).

This is a screenshot from the link posted about about plant sexual terms. Monoecious might be what would be used :thinking:


Yes, you are describing monoecy, and plants that are monoecious. Dioecy would be when male and female flowers are always on separate plants.