Ferns are an amazing and very diverse group with over 10,000 species. Their differing structures have evolved over 360 million years. They are vascular plants which means they have a vascular system for transporting nutrients and water as do the flowering plants (angiosperms) and cone bearing plants (gymnosperms). Because of this vascular plants can evolve to larger sizes than non-vascular ones (eg mosses). In vascular plants the principal reproduction phase is by the sporophyte. Sporophytes have only 2 sets of chromosomes (diploid). Ferns reproduce by spore (which are produced by the sporophytes) and have neither seeds nor flowers. The gametophyte of ferns is a free-living organism, where as the gametophyte of the gymnosperms and angiosperms is dependent on the sporophyte.
Life cycle of a typical fern:
1. A diploid (2 chromosomes) sporophyte phase produces haploid (one chromosome) spores by meiosis (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 and eggs on the same prothallus) by mitosis.
4. A mobile, flagellate sperm fertilizes an egg that remains attached to the prothallus.
5. The fertilized egg is now a diploid zygote and grows by mitosis into a diploid sporophyte (the typical “fern” plant).
Forget all the Above if you like…..
…Here’s what you do!
PROPAGATION FROM SPORE
The process will take up to 12 months so if you can divide the fern this will always be way quicker!
What are Spores. They are the miniscule genetic base from which we propagate. They are encased in Sporangia which are grouped together in Sori which are the ‘brown dots’ you see on the back of the fronds (photo above)
1. Take a healthy frond with Sori that are plump and furry and put in a plastic bag to dry out. You can also lie flat on white paper and the spore will fall out. You can also scrape off with a bread & butter knife.
2. When the leaf is dry shake the bag so the spore fall out of the Sori and float to the bottom of the bag.
3. Put some peat or cocopeat in a pot or tray with 2cm of perlite under it and make sure the mix is moist. Add a little water and microwave for 10m on high to kill germs. Be careful..experiment…so no mess in your microwave!
4. Place the tiny spore you have collected on the surface of the mix. You can make a shaker with stocking on a glass.
5. Place the pot or tray inside a plastic bag or similar plastic container that retains the humidity without having to water. Keep in a warm sunny spot at least 20oC.
6. Now wait as the process takes some time. A green slime will appear over the surface of the pot or tray. This is the beginning of the process.
7. Watch in amazement as the tiny spore go through stages 2-5 above until you see your tiny fern fronds emerge. Open as little as possible as it lets germs in.
8. Pluck ferns with fronds out and put in a 40mm pot to start its new life. Now mist the tray every few days to encourage more to germinate.