When you look at a fern as you are walking through a shady, moist woodland, you notice the green, often lacy frond. As beautiful as it is, there is something fascinating happening on the underside of the frond. Spores are gathered on the underside of the frond in clusters called sori. When you turn the fern frond over, you should be able to see small little dots arranged in rows. These clusters contain the spores. Ferns are a ” vascular plant” with an internal vein structure that promotes water flow and nutrients. Other vascular plants reproduce from seeds but ferns reproduce from spores. Once mature, the spores burst forth and are released into the wind as a dust like substance. Carried through the air, the spores land in a new area where they germinate.
If the spores find suitable conditions, they grow into a tiny heart shaped plantlet called a gametophyte. The gametophyte produces the egg and the sperm. The sperm must swim and fertilize the egg that is why the water is so important in the habitat of the fern. If fertilization occurs, we have a new fern plant.
On your woodswalk give the ferns a closer examination, both the front and the back!