Air fern
Neptune plant or Air fern is a name given to a product that is composed of a species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of marine animal called Sertularia argentea, also known as the "sea fir".

These so-called "ferns" are dead and dried colonies of hydrozoa
Hydrozoa are a taxonomic class of very small, predatory animals which can be solitary or colonial and which mostly live in saltwater. A few genera within this class live in freshwater...

ns, colonies of marine
Marine (ocean)
Marine is an umbrella term. As an adjective it is usually applicable to things relating to the sea or ocean, such as marine biology, marine ecology and marine geology...

-Marine biology:Hydroids are a life stage for most animals of class Hydrozoa, small predators related to jellyfish.-Botany:In mosses, hydroids form the innermost layer of the stem of long, colourless, thin walled cells of small diameter.The cells are dead and lack protoplasm.They function as water...

s, class
Class (biology)
In biological classification, class is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, order, family, genus, and species, with class fitting between phylum and order...

Hydrozoa are a taxonomic class of very small, predatory animals which can be solitary or colonial and which mostly live in saltwater. A few genera within this class live in freshwater...

, phylum
In biology, a phylum The term was coined by Georges Cuvier from Greek φῦλον phylon, "race, stock," related to φυλή phyle, "tribe, clan." is a taxonomic rank below kingdom and above class. "Phylum" is equivalent to the botanical term division....

Cnidaria is a phylum containing over 9,000 species of animals found exclusively in aquatic and mostly marine environments. Their distinguishing feature is cnidocytes, specialized cells that they use mainly for capturing prey. Their bodies consist of mesoglea, a non-living jelly-like substance,...

. Hydroids are related to coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

s and jellyfish
Jellyfish are free-swimming members of the phylum Cnidaria. Medusa is another word for jellyfish, and refers to any free-swimming jellyfish stages in the phylum Cnidaria...


These dried hydroid colonies are commonly sold as a curiosity, as a supposedly decorative "indoor plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

", or as underwater decorations for aquaria in stores. They are sometimes labeled as "Neptune plants". Despite a superficial resemblance to plants, they are actually animal skeleton
The skeleton is the body part that forms the supporting structure of an organism. There are two different skeletal types: the exoskeleton, which is the stable outer shell of an organism, and the endoskeleton, which forms the support structure inside the body.In a figurative sense, skeleton can...

s or shells. The dried colonies are often dyed green, but, when soaked in water, the coloring will dissolve.

The fernlike branches of S. argentea are composed of many small, chitin
Chitin n is a long-chain polymer of a N-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose, and is found in many places throughout the natural world...

ous chambers where individual animals once lived. When the colony was alive, a polyp
A polyp in zoology is one of two forms found in the phylum Cnidaria, the other being the medusa. Polyps are approximately cylindrical in shape and elongated at the axis of the body...

 with numerous tentacles occupied each of the chambers, called hydrotheca.

Also note that sometimes dried bryozoa
The Bryozoa, also known as Ectoprocta or commonly as moss animals, are a phylum of aquatic invertebrate animals. Typically about long, they are filter feeders that sieve food particles out of the water using a retractable lophophore, a "crown" of tentacles lined with cilia...

 are sold as "air ferns."

Most commercially sold air ferns are collected as a by-product by trawlers
Trawling is a method of fishing that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. The net that is used for trawling is called a trawl....

 in the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

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