For the past week or so, the wild idea that high concentrations of “male trees” in cities are the reason that people experience intense allergies has been gaining renewed traction in certain circles online. This and the concept of exclusively “male” trees being planted in cities in order to rob urbanites of free fruit from “female” trees may sound a bit ridiculous to you, because they are. While the dude-equivalent to trees might not be an actual thing in reality, there are actually quite a few notable ones featured in fantasy and sci-fi.
Here in the real world, the vast majority of trees and other plants do not have the sort of sexual dimorphism commonly seen in animals. Hermaphroditic plants most often reproduce through pollination, the process by which pollen (essentially plant sperm) is transferred to a flower’s stigma (the parts that eventually produce fruits, which contain seeds). While some plants are pollinated with the help of insects, many—like trees—rely on the wind, which is particularly effective at moving pollen particles around. But in order for wind pollination to be effective, plants have to produce massive amounts of pollen because it’s ultimately a game of chance, and plants have no way of homing in on one another for precise, direct reproduction. These are the sorts of things one learns in basic biology, but it’s easy for people to get caught up in bad science at a time when misinformation runs rampant on social media.
But back to the fun kind of fiction, where some fictional trees have sonorous voices and luxurious beards you’re probably familiar with. Let’s rank some, shall we?