hermaphrodite (hərmăfˈrədĪtˌ) [key], animal or plant that normally possesses both male and female reproductive systems, producing both eggs and sperm. Many plants, including most flowering plants (angiosperms), are hermaphroditic, or monoecious; in these, male and female reproductive structures are present in the same plant, often in the same flower, and many hermaphrodite flowers are self-pollinated. Many lower animals, especially immobile species, are hermaphroditic; in some, such as earthworms, two animals copulate and fertilize each other. Some parasitic species, e.g., the tapeworm, are self-fertile as well as hermaphroditic, insuring reproduction where the parasite may be the only member of its species in the host. Many hermaphrodites are protandrous or protogynous, i.e., gametes of the two sexes are produced in the same organism, sometimes in the same gonad, but at different times; in such organisms (e.g., the oyster and the sage plant) self-fertilization is impossible.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.