People use ferns mostly in decorative purposes.
Fern is a vascular, seedless plant that belongs to the group Pteridophyta. There are around 12 000 types of ferns that differ in size, morphology and type of habitat. Ferns can be found throughout the world. They live in shady places that provide enough moisture, such as forests, fields, swamps and areas near the streams. Fern can survive in various climates and on different altitudes. These plants are among the oldest living organisms on the planet.
People use ferns mostly in decorative purposes. Several types of ferns are known as invasive species due to increased reproduction rate and ability to occupy new habitats quickly. Some species of ferns are listed as endangered because of the habitat loss (as a result of increased human activity).
Tree ferns have been found to pre-date dinosaurs, growing as early as the Carboniferous period 300-360 million years ago. Ferns are also particularly hardy plants and often the first plants to show signs of recovery in the early weeks after bushfires.
Ancient family ties
Tree ferns are generally slow growing, at rates of just 25-50 millimetres height increase per year. This means the tall individuals you might spot in a mature forest may be several centuries old. As a plant group, tree ferns are ancient, dating back hundreds of millions of years and pre-dating dinosaurs.
They existed on earth long before the flowering or cone-bearing plants evolved, and were a significant element of the earth’s flora during the Carboniferous period 300-360 million years ago, when conditions for plant growth were near ideal. This explains why ferns don’t reproduce by flowers, fruits or cones, but by more primitive spores.
Useful in many ways
Some species of ferns are used in human diet. Ferns can absorb heavy metals from the air and soil. They can be used to prevent pollution or for the cleaning of already polluted areas.
Ferns are able to absorb nitrogen from the air. Because of this feature, some farmers use ferns as natural fertilizers on the rice fields. Certain types of tree ferns are used as building materials. Lifespan of fern depends on the species. Some types of ferns can live up to 100 years.
Ferns do not develop flowers and seed. They reproduce via miniature cells called spores. Some animals, such as bats and mice, eat spores.
Spores are produced in the structures called sporangia. They can be recognized as row of brown patches on the bottom side of the leaves. Spores can be reddish, brownish, yellow or black in color.
Threat due to climate change
Until recent times, ferns were quiet achievers among plant groups with an expanding number of species and greater numbers. Today, human activities are limiting their success by the clearing of forests and agricultural practices. Climate change is also a more recent threat to many fern species.
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