The dicotyledons, also known as dicots (or, more rarely, dicotyls),[2] are one of the two groups into which all the flowering plants (angiosperms) were formerly divided. The name refers to one of the typical characteristics of the group: namely, that the seed has two embryonic leaves or cotyledons. There are around 200,000 species within this group.[3] The other group of flowering plants were called monocotyledons (or monocots), typically each having one cotyledon. Historically, these two groups formed the two divisions of the flowering plants.

Lamium album (white dead nettle)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Spermatophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Groups included
Cladistically included but traditionally excluded taxa
dicotyledon plantlet
Young castor oil plant showing its prominent two embryonic leaves (cotyledons), that differ from the adult leaves.

Largely from the 1990s onwards, molecular phylogenetic research confirmed what had already been suspected: that dicotyledons are not a group made up of all the descendants of a common ancestor (i.e., they are not a monophyletic group). Rather, a number of lineages, such as the magnoliids and groups now collectively known as the basal angiosperms, diverged earlier than the monocots did; in other words, monocots evolved from within the dicots, as traditionally defined. The traditional dicots are thus a paraphyletic group.[4]

The eudicots are the largest monophyletic group within the dicotyledons. They are distinguished from all other flowering plants by the structure of their pollen. Other dicotyledons and the monocotyledons have monosulcate pollen (or derived forms): grains with a single sulcus. Contrastingly, eudicots have tricolpate pollen (or derived forms): grains with three or more pores set in furrows called colpi.

Comparison with monocotyledons

Aside from cotyledon number, other broad differences have been noted between monocots and dicots, although these have proven to be differences primarily between monocots and eudicots. Many early-diverging dicot groups have monocot characteristics such as scattered vascular bundles, trimerous flowers, and non-tricolpate pollen.[5] In addition, some monocots have dicot characteristics such as reticulated leaf veins.[5]

Feature In monocots In dicots
Number of parts of each flower In threes (flowers are trimerous) In fours or fives (tetramerous or pentamerous)
Number of furrows or pores in pollen One Three
Number of cotyledons (leaves in the seed) One Two
Arrangement of vascular bundles in the stem Scattered In concentric circles
Roots Are adventitious Develop from the radicle
Arrangement of major leaf veins Parallel Reticulate
Secondary growth Absent Often present
Stomata Present on both the upper and lower epidermis of leaves More common on the lower epidermis of leaves
Comparison of monocots and dicots



The consensus phylogenetic tree used in the APG IV system shows that the group traditionally treated as the dicots is paraphyletic to the monocots:[6][7]





core angiosperms






traditional dicots


Traditionally, the dicots have been called the Dicotyledones (or Dicotyledoneae), at any rank. If treated as a class, as they are within the Cronquist system, they could be called the Magnoliopsida after the type genus Magnolia. In some schemes, the eudicots were either treated as a separate class, the Rosopsida (type genus Rosa), or as several separate classes. The remaining dicots (palaeodicots or basal angiosperms) may be kept in a single paraphyletic class, called Magnoliopsida, or further divided. Some botanists prefer to retain the dicotyledons as a valid class, arguing its practicality and that it makes evolutionary sense.[8]

APG vs. Cronquist

The following lists show the orders in the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group APG IV system traditionally called dicots,[7] together with the older Cronquist system.

Cronquist system
(classis Magnoliopsida)
Magnoliidae (mostly basal dicots)

Dahlgren and Thorne systems

Under the Dahlgren and Thorne systems, the subclass name Magnoliidae was used for the dicotyledons. This is also the case in some of the systems derived from the Cronquist system. These two systems are contrasted in the table below in terms of how each categorises by superorder; note that the sequence within each system has been altered in order to pair corresponding taxa

The Thorne system (1992) as depicted by Reveal is:

Dahlgren system Thorne system




Nymphaeanae Nymphaeanae
Caryophyllanae Caryophyllanae


Malvanae Malvanae
Violanae Violanae
Rosanae Rosanae
Proteanae Proteanae
Myrtanae Myrtanae
Rutanae Rutanae


Santalanae Santalanae
Balanophoranae Santalanae
Asteranae Asteranae
Solananae Solananae




Loasanae Loasanae



There exist variances between the superorders circumscribed from each system. Namely, although the systems share common names for many of the listed superorders, the specific list orders classified within each varies. For example, Thorne’s Theanae corresponds to five distinct superorders under Dahlgren’s system, only one of which is called Theanae.

See also

  • Calyciflorae


  1. Takhtajan, A. (June 1964), "The Taxa of the Higher Plants above the Rank of Order", Taxon, 13 (5): 160–164, doi:10.2307/1216134, JSTOR 1216134
  2. "Dicotyl", The Free Dictionary, retrieved 2 January 2016
  3. Hamilton, Alan; Hamilton, Patrick (2006), Plant conservation: An ecosystem approach, London: Earthscan, p. 2, ISBN 978-1-84407-083-1
  4. Simpson, Michael G. (2011), "Chapter 7: Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants", Plant Systematics, Elsevier, p. 139, ISBN 978-0-0805-1404-8
  5. Monocots versus Dicots, University of California Museum of Paleontology, retrieved 25 January 2012
  6. Cole, Theodor C.H.; Hilger, Hartmut H. & Stevens, Peter F. (2017), Angiosperm Phylogeny Poster - Flowering Plant Systematics (PDF), retrieved 2017-07-13
  7. Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016), "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 181 (1): 1–20, doi:10.1111/boj.12385
  8. Stuessy, Tod F. (2010), "Paraphyly and the origin and classification of angiosperms." (PDF), Taxon, 59 (3): 689–693, doi:10.1002/tax.593001
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