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Fern

Fern

Overview
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species
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 plant
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...

s belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es, they have xylem
Xylem
Xylem is one of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants. . The word xylem is derived from the Classical Greek word ξυλον , meaning "wood"; the best-known xylem tissue is wood, though it is found throughout the plant...

 and phloem
Phloem
In vascular plants, phloem is the living tissue that carries organic nutrients , in particular, glucose, a sugar, to all parts of the plant where needed. In trees, the phloem is the innermost layer of the bark, hence the name, derived from the Greek word "bark"...

 (making them vascular plants). They have stem
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

s, leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

, and root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s like other vascular plants. Ferns reproduce via spore
Spore
In biology, a spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many bacteria, plants, algae, fungi and some protozoa. According to scientist Dr...

s and have neither seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s nor flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s.

By far the largest group of ferns are the leptosporangiate fern
Leptosporangiate fern
Leptosporangiate ferns are the largest group of living ferns. They are often considered to be the class Pteridopsida or Polypodiopsida, although other classifications assign them a different rank...

s, but ferns as defined here (also called monilophytes) include horsetail
Horsetail
Equisetum is the only living genus in the Equisetaceae, a family of vascular plants that reproduce by spores rather than seeds.Equisetum is a "living fossil", as it is the only living genus of the entire class Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was much more diverse and...

s, whisk ferns, marattioid ferns, and ophioglossoid ferns.
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Encyclopedia
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species
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 plant
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...

s belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es, they have xylem
Xylem
Xylem is one of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants. . The word xylem is derived from the Classical Greek word ξυλον , meaning "wood"; the best-known xylem tissue is wood, though it is found throughout the plant...

 and phloem
Phloem
In vascular plants, phloem is the living tissue that carries organic nutrients , in particular, glucose, a sugar, to all parts of the plant where needed. In trees, the phloem is the innermost layer of the bark, hence the name, derived from the Greek word "bark"...

 (making them vascular plants). They have stem
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

s, leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

, and root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s like other vascular plants. Ferns reproduce via spore
Spore
In biology, a spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many bacteria, plants, algae, fungi and some protozoa. According to scientist Dr...

s and have neither seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s nor flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s.

By far the largest group of ferns are the leptosporangiate fern
Leptosporangiate fern
Leptosporangiate ferns are the largest group of living ferns. They are often considered to be the class Pteridopsida or Polypodiopsida, although other classifications assign them a different rank...

s, but ferns as defined here (also called monilophytes) include horsetail
Horsetail
Equisetum is the only living genus in the Equisetaceae, a family of vascular plants that reproduce by spores rather than seeds.Equisetum is a "living fossil", as it is the only living genus of the entire class Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was much more diverse and...

s, whisk ferns, marattioid ferns, and ophioglossoid ferns. The term pteridophyte also refers to ferns and a few other seedless vascular plants (see classification section below). A pteridologist is a specialist in the study of pteridophytes in a broader sense that includes the more distantly related lycophytes.

Ferns first appear in the fossil record 360 million years ago in the Carboniferous
Carboniferous
The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Devonian Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Permian Period, about 299.0 ± 0.8 Mya . The name is derived from the Latin word for coal, carbo. Carboniferous means "coal-bearing"...

 but many of the current families and species did not appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the late Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 (after flowering plants came to dominate many environments).

Ferns are not of major economic importance, but some are grown or gathered for food, as ornamental plant
Ornamental plant
Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as house plants, for cut flowers and specimen display...

s, for remediating contaminated soils, and have been the subject of research for their ability to remove some chemical pollutants from the air. Some are significant weeds. They also play a role in mythology, medicine, and art.

Life cycle



Ferns are vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s differing from lycophytes by having true leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 (megaphylls). They differ from seed plants (gymnosperm
Gymnosperm
The gymnosperms are a group of seed-bearing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetales. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the Greek word gymnospermos , meaning "naked seeds", after the unenclosed condition of their seeds...

s and angiosperms) in their mode of reproduction—lacking flowers and seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s. Like all other vascular plants, they have a life cycle
Biological life cycle
A life cycle is a period involving all different generations of a species succeeding each other through means of reproduction, whether through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction...

 referred to as alternation of generations
Alternation of generations
Alternation of generations is a term primarily used in describing the life cycle of plants . A multicellular sporophyte, which is diploid with 2N paired chromosomes , alternates with a multicellular gametophyte, which is haploid with N unpaired chromosomes...

, characterized by a diploid sporophytic
Sporophyte
All land plants, and some algae, have life cycles in which a haploid gametophyte generation alternates with a diploid sporophyte, the generation of a plant or algae that has a double set of chromosomes. A multicellular sporophyte generation or phase is present in the life cycle of all land plants...

 and a haploid gametophytic
Gametophyte
A gametophyte is the haploid, multicellular phase of plants and algae that undergo alternation of generations, with each of its cells containing only a single set of chromosomes....

 phase. The diploid sporophyte has 2n paired chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

s, where n varies from species to species. The haploid gametophyte has n unpaired chromosomes, i.e. half the number of the sporophyte. Unlike the gymnosperms and angiosperms, the ferns' gametophyte is a free-living organism.

Life cycle of a typical fern:
  1. A diploid sporophyte phase produces haploid spore
    Spore
    In biology, a spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many bacteria, plants, algae, fungi and some protozoa. According to scientist Dr...

    s by meiosis
    Meiosis
    Meiosis is a special type of cell division necessary for sexual reproduction. The cells produced by meiosis are gametes or spores. The animals' gametes are called sperm and egg cells....

     (a process of cell division which reduces the number of chromosomes by a half).
  2. A spore grows into a haploid gametophyte by mitosis (a process of cell division which maintains the number of chromosomes). The gametophyte typically consists of a photosynthetic prothallus.
  3. The gametophyte produces gametes (often both sperm
    Sperm
    The term sperm is derived from the Greek word sperma and refers to the male reproductive cells. In the types of sexual reproduction known as anisogamy and oogamy, there is a marked difference in the size of the gametes with the smaller one being termed the "male" or sperm cell...

     and egg
    Ovum
    An ovum is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule is used for the young ovum of an animal, as well as the plant structure that carries the female gametophyte and egg cell and develops into a seed after fertilization...

    s on the same prothallus) by mitosis
    Mitosis
    Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

    .
  4. A mobile, flagellate
    Flagellum
    A flagellum is a tail-like projection that protrudes from the cell body of certain prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and plays the dual role of locomotion and sense organ, being sensitive to chemicals and temperatures outside the cell. There are some notable differences between prokaryotic and...

     sperm fertilizes an egg that remains attached to the prothallus.
  5. The fertilized egg is now a diploid zygote
    Zygote
    A zygote , or zygocyte, is the initial cell formed when two gamete cells are joined by means of sexual reproduction. In multicellular organisms, it is the earliest developmental stage of the embryo...

     and grows by mitosis into a diploid sporophyte (the typical "fern" plant).

Fern ecology



The stereotypic image of ferns growing in moist shady woodland nooks is far from being a complete picture of the habitats where ferns can be found growing. Fern species live in a wide variety of habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s, from remote mountain
Mountain
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|right|The Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everestrect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan Plateaurect 250 406 340 427 Rong River...

 elevations, to dry desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 rock faces, to bodies of water or in open fields. Ferns in general may be thought of as largely being specialists in marginal habitats, often succeeding in places where various environmental factors limit the success of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s. Some ferns are among the world's most serious weed species, including the bracken
Bracken
Bracken are several species of large, coarse ferns of the genus Pteridium. Ferns are vascular plants that have alternating generations, large plants that produce spores and small plants that produce sex cells . Brackens are in the family Dennstaedtiaceae, which are noted for their large, highly...

 fern growing in the Scottish highlands, or the mosquito fern (Azolla) growing in tropical lakes, both species forming large aggressively spreading colonies. There are four particular types of habitats that ferns are found in: moist, shady forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

s; crevices in rock faces, especially when sheltered from the full sun; acid wetlands including bog
Bog
A bog, quagmire or mire is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses or, in Arctic climates, lichens....

s and swamp
Swamp
A swamp is a wetland with some flooding of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water. A swamp generally has a large number of hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodical inundation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp...

s; and tropical tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, where many species are epiphyte
Epiphyte
An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object , derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it, and is found in the temperate zone and in the...

s (something like a quarter to a third of all fern species).

Many ferns depend on associations with mycorrhizal fungi. Many ferns only grow within specific pH ranges; for instance, the climbing fern (Lygodium
Lygodium
Lygodium is a genus of about 40 species of ferns, native to tropical regions across the world, with a few temperate species in eastern Asia and eastern North America...

) of eastern North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 will only grow in moist, intensely acid
Acid
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

 soils, while the bulblet bladder fern (Cystopteris
Cystopteris
Cystopteris is a genus of ferns. These are known generally as bladderferns or fragile ferns. They are found in temperate areas worldwide. This is a very diverse genus and within a species individuals can look quite different, especially in harsh environments where they experience stress and remain...

 bulbifera
), with an overlapping range, is only found on limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

.

The spores are rich in lipid
Lipid
Lipids constitute a broad group of naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins , monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, and others...

s, protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 and calories, so some vertebrates eat these. The European woodmouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) has been found to eat the spores of Culcita macrocarpa and the bullfinch
Bullfinch
* A Bullfinch is one of two groups of passerine birdsBullfinch can also refer to:* Bullfinch , an obstacle seen on the cross-country course in the sport of eventing* USS Bullfinch, the name of two US Navy ships...

 (Pyrrhula murina) and the New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat
New Zealand Lesser Short-tailed Bat
The Lesser Short-tailed Bat, Mystacina tuberculata or Pekapeka-tou-poto in Māori, is one of only two species of short-tailed bats in the family Mystacinidae, which is endemic to New Zealand.-Description:...

 (Mystacina tuberculata) also eat fern spores.

Fern structure




Like the sporophytes of seed plants, those of ferns consist of:
  • Stems
    Plant stem
    A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

    : Most often an underground creeping rhizome
    Rhizome
    In botany and dendrology, a rhizome is a characteristically horizontal stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes...

    , but sometimes an above-ground creeping stolon
    Stolon
    In biology, stolons are horizontal connections between organisms. They may be part of the organism, or of its skeleton; typically, animal stolons are external skeletons.-In botany:...

     (e.g., Polypodiaceae
    Polypodiaceae
    Polypodiaceae is a family of polypod ferns, which includes more than 60 genera divided into several tribes and containing around 1,000 species. Nearly all are epiphytes, but some are terrestrial.-Description:...

    ), or an above-ground erect semi-woody trunk (e.g., Cyatheaceae
    Cyatheaceae
    The Cyatheaceae is the scaly tree fern family and includes the world's tallest tree ferns, which reach heights up to 20 m. They are also very ancient plants, appearing in the fossil record in the late Jurassic, though the modern genera likely appeared in the Tertiary. Cyatheaceae is the largest...

    ) reaching up to 20 m in a few species (e.g., Cyathea brownii on Norfolk Island
    Norfolk Island
    Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance...

     and Cyathea medullaris in New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

    ).
  • Leaf
    Leaf
    A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

    : The green
    Green
    Green is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 520–570 nanometres. In the subtractive color system, it is not a primary color, but is created out of a mixture of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan; it is considered...

    , photosynthetic
    Photosynthesis
    Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

     part of the plant. In ferns, it is often referred to as a frond
    Frond
    The term frond refers to a large, divided leaf. In both common usage and botanical nomenclature, the leaves of ferns are referred to as fronds and some botanists restrict the term to this group...

    , but this is because of the historical division between people who study ferns and people who study seed plants, rather than because of differences in structure. New leaves typically expand by the unrolling of a tight spiral called a crozier or fiddlehead
    Fiddlehead
    Fiddleheads or Fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young fern, harvested for use as a vegetable. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond...

    . This uncurling of the leaf is termed circinate vernation. Leaves are divided into three types:
    • Trophophyll: A leaf that does not produce spores, instead only producing sugars by photosynthesis. Analogous to the typical green leaves of seed plants.
    • Sporophyll
      Sporophyll
      A sporophyll is a leaf that bears sporangia. Both microphylls and megaphylls can be sporophylls. In heterosporous plants, sporophylls bear either megasporangia , or microsporangia...

      : A leaf that produces spores. These leaves are analogous to the scales of pine cones or to stamens and pistil in gymnosperms and angiosperms, respectively. Unlike the seed plants, however, the sporophylls of ferns are typically not very specialized, looking similar to trophophylls and producing sugars by photosynthesis as the trophophylls do.
    • Brophophyll: A leaf that produces abnormally large amounts of spores. Their leaves are also larger than the other leaves but bear a resemblance to trophophylls.
  • Root
    Root
    In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

    s: The underground non-photosynthetic structures that take up water and nutrients from soil
    Soil
    Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

    . They are always fibrous
    Fibrous root system
    A fibrous root system is the opposite of a taproot system. It is usually formed by thin, moderately branching roots growing from the stem...

     and are structurally very similar to the roots of seed plants.


The gametophytes of ferns, however, are very different from those of seed plants. They typically consist of:
  • Prothallus: A green, photosynthetic structure that is one cell thick, usually heart or kidney shaped, 3–10 mm long and 2–8 mm broad. The prothallus produces gametes by means of:
    • Antheridia
      Antheridium
      An antheridium or antherida is a haploid structure or organ producing and containing male gametes . It is present in the gametophyte phase of lower plants like mosses and ferns, and also in the primitive vascular psilotophytes...

      : Small spherical structures that produce flagellate
      Flagellum
      A flagellum is a tail-like projection that protrudes from the cell body of certain prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and plays the dual role of locomotion and sense organ, being sensitive to chemicals and temperatures outside the cell. There are some notable differences between prokaryotic and...

       sperm.
    • Archegonia
      Archegonium
      An archegonium , from the ancient Greek ἀρχή and γόνος , is a multicellular structure or organ of the gametophyte phase of certain plants, producing and containing the ovum or female gamete. The archegonium has a long neck canal and a swollen base...

      : A flask-shaped structure that produces a single egg at the bottom, reached by the sperm by swimming down the neck.
  • Rhizoid
    Rhizoid
    Rhizoids are thread-like growths from the base or bottom of a plant, found mainly in lower groups such as algae, fungi, bryophytes and pteridophytes, that function like roots of higher plants ....

    s: root
    Root
    In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

    -like structures (not true roots) that consist of single greatly elongated cells, water and mineral salts are absorbed over the whole structure. Rhizoids anchor the prothallus to the soil.


One difference between sporophytes and gametophytes might be summed up by the saying that "Nothing eats ferns, but everything eats gametophytes." This is an over-simplification, but it is true that gametophytes are often difficult to find in the field because they are far more likely to be food than are the sporophytes.

Evolution and classification



Ferns first appear in the fossil record in the early-Carboniferous
Carboniferous
The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Devonian Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Permian Period, about 299.0 ± 0.8 Mya . The name is derived from the Latin word for coal, carbo. Carboniferous means "coal-bearing"...

 period. By the Triassic
Triassic
The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

, the first evidence of ferns related to several modern families appeared. The "great fern radiation" occurred in the late-Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

, when many modern families of ferns first appeared.

One problem with fern classification is the problem of cryptic species. A cryptic species is a species that is morphologically similar to another species, but differs genetically in ways that prevent fertile interbreeding. A good example of this is the currently designated species Asplenium trichomanes
Asplenium trichomanes
Asplenium trichomanes is a small fern in the spleenwort genus Asplenium. It is a widespread and common species, occurring almost worldwide in a variety of rocky habitats. It is a variable fern with several subspecies.-Description:It grows in tufts from a short rhizome...

, the maidenhair spleenwort. This is actually a species complex that includes distinct diploid and tetraploid races. There are minor but unclear morphological differences between the two groups, which prefer distinctly differing habitats. In many cases such as this, the species complexes have been separated into separate species, thus raising the number of overall fern species. Possibly many more cryptic species are yet to be discovered and designated.

Ferns have traditionally been grouped in the Class Filices, but modern classifications assign them their own phylum
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....

 or division in the plant kingdom, called Pteridophyta, also known as Filicophyta. The group is also referred to as Polypodiophyta, (or Polypodiopsida when treated as a subdivision of tracheophyta (vascular plants), although Polypodiopsida sometimes refers to only the leptosporangiate fern
Leptosporangiate fern
Leptosporangiate ferns are the largest group of living ferns. They are often considered to be the class Pteridopsida or Polypodiopsida, although other classifications assign them a different rank...

s). The term "pteridophyte
Pteridophyte
The pteridophytes are vascular plants that produce neither flowers nor seeds, and are hence called vascular cryptogams. Instead, they reproduce and disperse only via spores. Pteridophytes include horsetails, ferns, club mosses, and quillworts...

" has traditionally been used to describe all seedless vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s, making it synonymous with "ferns and fern allies". This can be confusing since members of the fern phylum Pteridophyta are also sometimes referred to as pteridophytes. The study of ferns and other pteridophytes is called pteridology, and one who studies ferns and other pteridophytes is called a pteridologist.

Traditionally, three discrete groups of plants have been considered ferns: two groups of eusporangiate ferns—families Ophioglossaceae
Ophioglossaceae
Ophioglossaceae, the Adder's tongue family, is a family of ferns, currently thought to be most closely related to Psilotaceae, the two together comprising the class Psilotopsida as the sibling group to the rest of the ferns. The Ophioglossaceae is one of two groups of ferns traditionally known as...

 (adders-tongues
Ophioglossum
Ophioglossum is a genus of about 25-30 species of Ophioglossales in the family Ophioglossaceae, with a cosmopolitan but primarily tropical and subtropical distribution. The name Ophioglossum comes from the Greek, and means "snake-tongue".Adders-tongues are so-called because the spore-bearing stalk...

, moonwort
Moonwort
Moonworts are ferns, seedless vascular plants, of the genus Botrychium, sensu stricto. They are small, with fleshy roots, and reproduce by spores shed into the air. One part of the leaf, the trophophore, is sterile and fernlike; the other, the sporophore, is fertile and carries the clusters of...

s, and grape-ferns) and Marattiaceae—and the leptosporangiate
Sporangium
A sporangium is an enclosure in which spores are formed. It can be composed of a single cell or can be multicellular. All plants, fungi, and many other lineages form sporangia at some point in their life cycle...

 ferns. The Marattiaceae are a primitive group of tropical ferns with a large, fleshy rhizome, and are now thought to be a sibling taxon to the main group of ferns, the leptosporangiate ferns. Several other groups of plants were considered "fern allies
Fern ally
Fern allies are a diverse group of seedless vascular plants that are not true ferns. Like ferns, a fern ally disperses by shedding spores to initiate an alternation of generations.-Classification:...

": the clubmosses, spikemoss
Spikemoss
Selaginella is a genus of plants in the family Selaginellaceae, the spikemosses. Many workers still place the Selaginellales in the class Lycopodiopsida . This group of plants has for years been included in what, for convenience, was called "fern allies". S...

es, and quillworts in the Lycopodiophyta
Lycopodiophyta
The Division Lycopodiophyta is a tracheophyte subdivision of the Kingdom Plantae. It is the oldest extant vascular plant division at around 410 million years old, and includes some of the most "primitive" extant species...

, the whisk ferns in Psilotaceae
Psilotaceae
Psilotaceae is a family of fern-like plants consisting of two genera, Psilotum and Tmesipteris. The two genera are very different and in the past Tmesipteris has been placed in its own family, Tmesipteridaceae, but most classifications continue to treat it in Psilotaceae...

, and the horsetail
Horsetail
Equisetum is the only living genus in the Equisetaceae, a family of vascular plants that reproduce by spores rather than seeds.Equisetum is a "living fossil", as it is the only living genus of the entire class Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was much more diverse and...

s in the Equisetaceae
Equisetaceae
Equisetaceae, sometimes called the horsetail family, is the only extant family of the class Equisetales, with one surviving genus, Equisetum, which comprises about twenty species.- Evolution and systematics :...

. More recent genetic studies have shown that the Lycopodiophyta are more distantly related to other vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s, having radiated evolutionarily at the base of the vascular plant clade
Clade
A clade is a group consisting of a species and all its descendants. In the terms of biological systematics, a clade is a single "branch" on the "tree of life". The idea that such a "natural group" of organisms should be grouped together and given a taxonomic name is central to biological...

, while both the whisk ferns and horsetails are as much "true" ferns as are the Ophioglossoids and Marattiaceae. In fact, the whisk ferns and Ophioglossoids are demonstrably a clade, and the horsetails and Marattiaceae are arguably another clade. Molecular data—which remain poorly constrained for many parts of the plants' phylogeny — have been supplemented by recent morphological observations supporting the inclusion of Equisetaceae within the ferns, notably relating to the construction of their sperm, and peculiarities of their roots. However, there are still differences of opinion about the placement of the Equisetum species (see Equisetopsida
Equisetopsida
Equisetopsida, or Sphenopsida, is a class of plants with a fossil record going back to the Devonian. They are commonly known as horsetails...

 for further discussion). One possible means of treating this situation is to consider only the leptosporangiate ferns as "true" ferns, while considering the other three groups as "fern allies". In practice, numerous classification schemes have been proposed for ferns and fern allies, and there has been little consensus among them.

A 2006 classification by Smith et al. is based on recent molecular systematic studies, in addition to morphological data. Their phylogeny is a consensus of a number of studies, and is shown below (to the level of orders).
Their classification based on this phylogeny divides extant ferns into four classes:
  • Psilotopsida
    Psilotopsida
    Psilotopsida is a class of fern-like plants. It should not be confused with the obsolete class Psilophytopsida. As circumscribed by Smith et al. Psilotopsida contains two families, Psilotaceae and Ophioglossaceae, placed in orders Psilotales and Ophioglossales, respectively...

     (whisk fern
    Psilotaceae
    Psilotaceae is a family of fern-like plants consisting of two genera, Psilotum and Tmesipteris. The two genera are very different and in the past Tmesipteris has been placed in its own family, Tmesipteridaceae, but most classifications continue to treat it in Psilotaceae...

    s and ophioglossoid ferns), about 92 species
  • Equisetopsida
    Equisetopsida
    Equisetopsida, or Sphenopsida, is a class of plants with a fossil record going back to the Devonian. They are commonly known as horsetails...

     (horsetail
    Horsetail
    Equisetum is the only living genus in the Equisetaceae, a family of vascular plants that reproduce by spores rather than seeds.Equisetum is a "living fossil", as it is the only living genus of the entire class Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was much more diverse and...

    s), about 15 species
  • Marattiopsida
    Marattiopsida
    Class Marattiopsida is a group of ferns containing a single order, Marattiales, and family, Marattiaceae. Class Marattiopsida diverged from other ferns very early in their evolutionary history and are quite different from many plants familiar to people in temperate zones. Many of them have massive,...

    , about 150 species
  • Polypodiopsida (leptosporangiate ferns), over 9000 species


The last group includes most plants familiarly known as ferns. Modern research supports older ideas based on morphology that the Osmundaceae diverged early in the evolutionary history of the leptosporangiate ferns; in certain ways this family is intermediate between the eusporangiate ferns and the leptosporangiate ferns. Research by Rai and Graham since this 2006 classification broadly supports the division into four groups, but queries their relationships, concluding that "at present perhaps the best that can be said about all relationships among the major lineages of monilophytes in current studies is that we do not understand them very well".

Uses


Ferns are not as important economically as seed plants but have considerable importance in some societies. Some ferns are used for food, including the fiddleheads of bracken
Bracken
Bracken are several species of large, coarse ferns of the genus Pteridium. Ferns are vascular plants that have alternating generations, large plants that produce spores and small plants that produce sex cells . Brackens are in the family Dennstaedtiaceae, which are noted for their large, highly...

, Pteridium aquilinum, ostrich fern
Ostrich fern
The ostrich fern or shuttlecock fern is a crown-forming, colony-forming fern, occurring in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in eastern and northern Europe, northern Asia and northern North America....

, Matteuccia struthiopteris, and cinnamon fern
Cinnamon fern
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum, the Cinnamon Fern, is a species of eusporangiate fern in the family Osmundaceae. It is native to the Americas and eastern Asia, growing in swamps, bogs and moist woodlands....

, Osmunda cinnamomea. Diplazium esculentum is also used by some tropical peoples as food. Tubers from the King Fern or para (Ptisana salicina) are a traditional food in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and the South Pacific
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

. Fern tubers were used for food 30,000 years ago in Europe. Fern tubers were used by the Guanches
Guanches
Guanches is the name given to the aboriginal Berber inhabitants of the Canary Islands. It is believed that they migrated to the archipelago sometime between 1000 BCE and 100 BCE or perhaps earlier...

 to make gofio
Gofio
Gofio is the Canary Islands name for flour made from roasted grains or other starchy plants , some varieties containing a little added salt...

 in the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

. Licorice fern
Licorice fern
Polypodium glycyrrhiza, commonly known as licorice fern, many-footed fern, and sweet root, is an evergreen fern native to western North America, primarily in a narrow strip in southern Alaska, southwestern Yukon Territory, western British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California, though two...

 rhizome
Rhizome
In botany and dendrology, a rhizome is a characteristically horizontal stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes...

s were chewed by the natives of the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

 for their flavor.

Ferns of the genus Azolla
Mosquito fern
Azolla is a genus of seven species of aquatic ferns in the family Salviniaceae. They are extremely reduced in form and specialized, looking nothing like conventional ferns but more resembling duckweed or some mosses.-Selected species:Azolla caroliniana Willd.   [ Poss. synon...

are very small, floating plants that do not resemble ferns. Called mosquito fern
Mosquito fern
Azolla is a genus of seven species of aquatic ferns in the family Salviniaceae. They are extremely reduced in form and specialized, looking nothing like conventional ferns but more resembling duckweed or some mosses.-Selected species:Azolla caroliniana Willd.   [ Poss. synon...

, they are used as a biological fertilizer in the rice paddies of southeast Asia, taking advantage of their ability to fix nitrogen
Nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation is the natural process, either biological or abiotic, by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia . This process is essential for life because fixed nitrogen is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of life, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and...

 from the air into compounds that can then be used by other plants.

Many ferns are grown in horticulture
Horticulture
Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic...

 as landscape plants, for cut foliage and as houseplant
Houseplant
A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors in places such as residences and offices. Houseplants are commonly grown for decorative purposes, positive psychological effects, or health reasons such as indoor air purification...

s, especially the Boston fern
Boston fern
The Sword Fern is a species of fern in the family Lomariopsidaceae , native to tropical regions throughout the world...

 (Nephrolepis exaltata) and other members of the genus Nephrolepis
Nephrolepis
Nephrolepis is a genus of about 30 species of ferns in the family Nephrolepidaceae or Lomariopsidaceae .-Selected species:* Nephrolepis biserrata Schott. Nephrolepis is a genus of about 30 species of ferns in the family Nephrolepidaceae or Lomariopsidaceae (included in Davalliaceae in some...

. The Bird's Nest Fern
Asplenium nidus
Asplenium nidus is a species of fern in the family Aspleniaceae, native to tropical southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, Christmas Island, India, and eastern Africa...

 (Asplenium nidus) is also popular, as is the staghorn ferns (genus Platycerium). Perennial (also known as hardy) ferns planted in gardens in the northern hemisphere also have a considerable following.

Several ferns are noxious weed
Weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

s or invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

, including Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium
Lygodium
Lygodium is a genus of about 40 species of ferns, native to tropical regions across the world, with a few temperate species in eastern Asia and eastern North America...

 japonicum
), mosquito fern and sensitive fern
Sensitive fern
Onoclea sensibilis, the Sensitive fern, also known as the bead fern, is a coarse-textured, medium to large-sized perennial fern. The name comes from the observation by early American settlers that it was very sensitive to frost, the fronds dying quickly when first touched by it...

 (Onoclea sensibilis). Giant water fern (Salvinia molesta) is one of the world's worst aquatic weeds. The important fossil fuel coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 consists of the remains of primitive plants, including ferns.

Ferns have been studied and found to be useful in the removal of heavy metals, especially arsenic, from the soil. Other ferns with some economic significance include:
  • Dryopteris filix-mas
    Dryopteris filix-mas
    Dryopteris filix-mas is one of the most common ferns of the temperate Northern Hemisphere, occurring throughout much of Europe, Asia, and North America. It favours damp shaded areas and is common in the understory of woodlands, but is also found in shady places on hedge-banks, rocks, and screes...

    (male fern), used as a vermifuge, and formerly in the US Pharmacopeia; also, this fern accidentally sprouting in a bottle resulted in Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward's 1829 invention of the terrarium or Wardian case
    Wardian case
    The Wardian case, was an early type of sealed protective container for plants, which found great use in the 19th Century in protecting foreign plants imported to Europe from overseas, the great majority of which had previously died from exposure during long sea journeys, frustrating the many...

  • Rumohra adiantiformis
    Rumohra adiantiformis
    Rumohra adiantiformis is a species of fern in the family Elaphoglossaceae.The fronds of R. adiantiformis contain round sori on the underside of the pinnae unlike many other ferns which have separate specialized reproductive fronds. Many of the sori have peltate indusia and have prominent scales...

    (floral fern), extensively used in the florist
    Floristry
    Floristry is the general term used to describe production, commerce and trade in flowers. It encompasses flower care and handling, floral design or flower arranging, merchandising, and display and flower delivery. Wholesale florists sell bulk flowers and related supplies to professionals in the trade...

     trade
  • Microsorum pteropus
    Microsorum pteropus
    Microsorum pteropus, commonly known as Java fern an aquatic fern from southeast Asia, is highly variable with several different geographic varieties that vary in leaf size and shape. It is found attached to roots and rocks in nature....

    (Java fern), one of the most popular freshwater aquarium plants.
  • Osmunda regalis
    Osmunda
    Osmunda is a genus of primarily temperate-zone ferns of family Osmundaceae. Five to ten species have been listed for this genus.The species have completely dimorphic fronds or pinnae , green photosynthetic sterile fronds, and non-photosynthetic spore-bearing fertile pinnae, with large, naked...

    (royal fern) and Osmunda cinnamomea
    Osmunda
    Osmunda is a genus of primarily temperate-zone ferns of family Osmundaceae. Five to ten species have been listed for this genus.The species have completely dimorphic fronds or pinnae , green photosynthetic sterile fronds, and non-photosynthetic spore-bearing fertile pinnae, with large, naked...

    (cinnamon fern), the root fiber being used horticulturally; the fiddleheads of O. cinnamomea are also used as a cooked vegetable
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern), the fiddleheads used as a cooked vegetable in North America
  • Pteridium aquilinum
    Pteridium aquilinum
    Pteridium aquilinum is a species of fern occurring in temperate and subtropical regions throughout much of the northern hemisphere....

     or Pteridium esculentum
    (bracken), the fiddleheads used as a cooked vegetable in Japan and are believed to be responsible for the high rate of stomach cancer in Japan. It is also one of the world's most important agricultural weeds, especially in the British highlands, and often poisons cattle and horses.
  • Diplazium esculentum (vegetable fern), a source of food for some native societies
  • Pteris vittata (brake fern), used to absorb arsenic
    Arsenic
    Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

     from the soil
  • Polypodium glycyrrhiza (licorice fern), roots chewed for their pleasant flavor
  • Tree ferns, used as building material in some tropical areas
  • Cyathea cooperi
    Cyathea cooperi
    Cyathea cooperi, also known as the Australian tree fern, lacy tree fern, scaly tree fern, or Cooper’s tree fern, is a medium-to-large, fast growing tree fern native to Australia. This fern grows to in height with a thick trunk...

    (Australian tree fern), an important invasive species in Hawaii
  • Ceratopteris richardii, a model plant for teaching and research, often called C-fern

Cultural connotations



Ferns figure in folklore, for example in legends about mythical flowers or seeds. In Slavic folklore, ferns are believed to bloom once a year, during the Ivan Kupala
Ivan Kupala Day
Kupala Day is celebrated in Poland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine currently on the night of 6/7 July in the Gregorian or New Style calendar, which is 23/24 June in the Julian or Old Style calendar still used by many Orthodox Churches. Calendar-wise, it is opposite to the winter solstice holiday...

 night. Although alleged to be exceedingly difficult to find, anyone who sees a "fern flower
Fern flower
The fern flower Chervona Ruta is a magic flower in Slavic mythology and in Baltic mythology .-Slavic tradition :According to the myth, this flower blooms for a very short time on the eve of the Summer solstice The flower brings fortune to the person who finds it...

" is thought to be guaranteed to be happy and rich for the rest of their life. Similarly, Finnish
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 tradition holds that one who finds the "seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

" of a fern in bloom on Midsummer
Midsummer
Midsummer may simply refer to the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different...

 night will, by possession of it, be guided and be able to travel invisibly to the locations where eternally blazing Will o' the wisp
Will o' the wisp
A will-o'-the-wisp or ignis fatuus , also called a "will-o'-wisp", "jack-o'-lantern" , "hinkypunk", "corpse candle", "ghost-light", "spook-light", "fairy light", "friar's lantern", "hobby lantern", "ghost orb", or simply "wisp", is a ghostly light or lights sometimes seen at night or twilight over...

s called aarnivalkea
Aarnivalkea
The Aarnivalkea, in Finnish mythology, are spots where an eternal flame associated with Will o' the wisps burns. They are claimed to mark the places where faerie gold is buried. They are protected by a glamour that would prevent anyone finding them by pure chance...

 mark the spot of hidden treasure
Treasure
Treasure is a concentration of riches, often one which is considered lost or forgotten until being rediscovered...

. These spots are protected by a spell that prevents anyone but the fern-seed holder from ever knowing their locations.

"Pteridomania
Pteridomania
Pteridomania or Fern-Fever was a craze for ferns. Victorian decorative arts presented the fern motif in pottery, glass, metal, textiles, wood, printed paper, and sculpture, with ferns "appearing on everything from christening presents to gravestones and memorials."-Description:Pteridomania, meaning...

"' is a term for the Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 craze of fern collecting
Collecting
The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating merchandise, or stamps from all countries of the world...

 and fern motifs in decorative art
Decorative art
The decorative arts is traditionally a term for the design and manufacture of functional objects. It includes interior design, but not usually architecture. The decorative arts are often categorized in opposition to the "fine arts", namely, painting, drawing, photography, and large-scale...

 including pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

, glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

, metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

s, textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

, printed paper
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

, and sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 "appearing on everything from christening
Infant baptism
Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism or pedobaptism from the Greek pais meaning "child." The practice is sometimes contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism", or...

 presents to gravestones and memorials." The fashion for growing ferns indoors led to the development of the Wardian case
Wardian case
The Wardian case, was an early type of sealed protective container for plants, which found great use in the 19th Century in protecting foreign plants imported to Europe from overseas, the great majority of which had previously died from exposure during long sea journeys, frustrating the many...

, a glazed cabinet that would exclude air pollutants and maintain the necessary humidity.
The dried form of ferns was also used in other arts, being used as a stencil or directly inked for use in a design. The botanical work, The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland
The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland
The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland was a book published in 1855 that featured 51 plates of nature printing by Henry Bradbury.-Description:The text was a scientific description of all the varieties of Ferns found in the British Isles...

, is a notable example of this type of nature printing
Nature printing
Nature printing is a printing process, developed in the 18th century, that uses the plants, animals, rocks and other natural subjects to produce an image...

. The process, patented by the artist and publisher Henry Bradbury, impressed a specimen on to a soft lead plate. The first publication to demonstrate this was Alois Auer
Alois Auer
Alois Auer, born 1813 in Wels, Austria, died 11 June 1869; was a printer, inventor and botanical illustrator, most active during the 1840s and 1850s. He produced a number of works in German and other languages, including the first regarding the nature printing process. He was the director of the...

's The Discovery of the Nature Printing-Process.

The silver fern in particular has a prominent place within New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 culture. Its leaf features as the emblem
Emblem
An emblem is a pictorial image, abstract or representational, that epitomizes a concept — e.g., a moral truth, or an allegory — or that represents a person, such as a king or saint.-Distinction: emblem and symbol:...

 of many of the country's top national sports teams, including the eponymous Silver Ferns
Silver Ferns
The New Zealand national netball team, commonly known as the Silver Ferns, represent New Zealand in international netball. The team take their nickname from the Silver Tree Fern , which is an iconic emblem for many New Zealand sports teams. The Silver Ferns were formed in 1938 as a representative...

 and the All Blacks
All Blacks
The New Zealand men's national rugby union team, known as the All Blacks, represent New Zealand in what is regarded as its national sport....

. There is currently significant support within the country to change the national flag
New Zealand flag debate
The New Zealand flag debate is a debate over whether the New Zealand flag should be changed. Unlike in Australia, the flag debate in New Zealand is independent of the New Zealand republic debate – the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand states that "creating a republic does not require any...

 to that of a fern leaf.

Misunderstood names


Several non-fern plants are called "ferns" and are sometimes confused with true ferns. These include:
  • "Asparagus fern"—This may apply to one of several species of the monocot
    Monocotyledon
    Monocotyledons, also known as monocots, are one of two major groups of flowering plants that are traditionally recognized, the other being dicotyledons, or dicots. Monocot seedlings typically have one cotyledon , in contrast to the two cotyledons typical of dicots...

     genus Asparagus
    Asparagus (genus)
    Asparagus is a genus in the plant family Asparagaceae, subfamily Asparagoideae. It comprises up to 300 species. Most are evergreen long-lived perennial plants growing from the understory as lianas, bushes or climbing plants. The best-known species is the edible Asparagus officinalis, commonly...

    , which are flowering plants.
  • "Sweetfern"—A flowering shrub of the genus Comptonia
    Comptonia
    Comptonia is a monotypic genus in the family Myricaceae, order Fagales. It is native to eastern North America, from southern Quebec south to the extreme north of Georgia, and west to Minnesota. The common name is Sweetfern or Sweet-fern, a confusing name as it is not a fern.It is a deciduous...

    .
  • "Air fern
    Air fern
    Neptune plant or Air fern is a name given to a product that is composed of a species of marine animal called Sertularia argentea, also known as the "sea fir"....

    "—A group of animal
    Animal
    Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

    s called hydrozoa
    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...

    n that are distantly related to jellyfish
    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...

     and coral
    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. They are harvested, dried, dyed green, and then sold as a "plant" that can "live on air". While it may look like a fern, it is merely the skeleton of this colonial animal
    Colony (biology)
    In biology, a colony reference to several individual organisms of the same species living closely together, usually for mutual benefit, such as stronger defense or the ability to attack bigger prey. Some insects live only in colonies...

    .
  • "Fern bush"—Chamaebatiaria millefolium
    Chamaebatiaria
    Chamaebatiaria is a monotypic genus of aromatic shrub in the rose family containing the single species Chamaebatiaria millefolium, which is known by the common names fern bush and desert sweet. Its genus name comes from its physical resemblance to the mountain miseries of genus Chamaebatia, which...

    —a rose family shrub with fern-like leaves.


In addition, the book Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the Red Fern Grows is a children's novel written by Wilson Rawls about a boy who buys and trains two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs. This book is a popular choice for early middle school reading classes, with a reading level appropriate to grades 4 and up.-Plot summary:Before leaving work one...

has elicited many questions about the mythical "red fern" named in the book. There is no such known plant, although there has been speculation that the oblique grape-fern, Sceptridium dissectum
Sceptridium
Sceptridium is a genus of seedless vascular plants, closely allied to the genus Botrychium and also closely related to the genus Botrypus . They are commonly called the grape-ferns.These plants are small with fleshy roots, and reproduce by spores shed into the air...

, could be referred to here, because it is known to appear on disturbed sites and its fronds may redden over the winter.

See also

  • Fern gall
    Chirosia betuleti
    The Knotting gall, is caused by the dipteron fly Chirosia betuleti . The gall develops in the terminal shoots of ferns, such as Broad buckler fern Dryopteris dilatata, Male shield fern Dryopteris filix-mas, Lady fern Athyrium filix-femina, and the Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris.-The...

  • Fern spike
    Fern spike
    In paleontology, a fern spike is the occurrence of abundant fern spores in the fossil record, usually immediately after an extinction event...

  • Fern sports
    Fern sports
    Fern sports are plants that show marked change from the normal type or parent stock as a result of mutation. The term Morphotype is also used for any of a group of different types of individuals of the same species in a population...

  • Fiddlehead greens
  • Pteridomania
    Pteridomania
    Pteridomania or Fern-Fever was a craze for ferns. Victorian decorative arts presented the fern motif in pottery, glass, metal, textiles, wood, printed paper, and sculpture, with ferns "appearing on everything from christening presents to gravestones and memorials."-Description:Pteridomania, meaning...


External links