Baby ferns

A spot in my garden is being colonised by baby ferns.

The toppling of a gum tree last year created bare ground. After a few months, this has now been smothered by little ferns, the biggest only a few cm long.

Baby ferns. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Leon Perrie, Wellington.

Baby ferns are difficult to identify, but I suspect these are water fern (Histiopteris incisa) and ring fern (Paesia scaberula).

Each baby fern has arisen from a different spore, so many spores have fallen on this spot.  Yet, there are no adults of these species within at least 100m, and perhaps even a kilometre or so. Clearly there are a lot of fern spores blowing in the wind!

Ferns, like all terrestrial plants, have a two part life-cycle. This is more obvious in ferns because both parts are free-living.

The typical fern plant produces spores, and releases them into the wind. If the spores happen to land in a suitable spot, they germinate to produce a gametophyte.

Fern gametophyte, smaller than a fingernail. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Leon Perrie, Wellington.

The gametophyte produces eggs, which are held internally, and sperm, which disperse through any free water. Fertilisation produces a sporophyte – the typical fern plant.

Young fern sporophyte growing from the fertilised egg of a gametophyte. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Leon Perrie, Wellington.

More detail on the fern life-cycle.

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