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I know Ginkgo is a gymnosperm, but I was wondering whether Ginkgo is also technically a conifer. I did a Google search, and found several confident authoritative-sounding answers. Unfortunately, those answers were divided between "is" and "is not". So which is it? Is a Ginkgo a conifer?

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The scientific answers are pretty clear: Gingkos are not closely related to the conifers, they are closer related to the cycads. See this phylogenetic tree based on the 18S RNA from paper 2:

enter image description here

It shows that conifers and Ginkgos are relative close related, but not on the same sub-branch of the tree. The last common ancestor between Ginkgos and Conifers is older than the one between Ginkgo and Cycadales. This classification has been made on the basis of genome comparisions and also based on an analysis of the chloroplasts.

References:

  1. Chloroplast Phylogenomics Indicates that Ginkgo biloba Is Sister to Cycads
  2. Molecular Phylogeny of Ginkgo biloba: Close Relationship Between Ginkgo biloba and Cycads
  3. Advances in Ginkgo biloba research: Genomics and metabolomics pe rspectives
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  • $\begingroup$ I see. Now I understand that Ginkgo, cycads, conifers, and gnetophytes constitute (extant) Gymnosperms. Gymnosperms and Angiosperms constitute seeded plants. Filicopsida is a category of fern, used as a convenient outgroup, outside of seeded plants, for this phylogenetic analysis. $\endgroup$ – Christopher Bruns Jan 12 '15 at 14:18

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