What are ferns?

Ferns are an ancient group of plants that first appeared on Earth about 325 million years ago. They are most closely related to mosses and liverworts. There are more than 12,000 species of ferns that grow around the world, and many live in moist, shady, tropical regions such as rain forests. Ferns are called vascular plants because they have internal vein structures that help spread water and nutrients throughout the plant. Ferns do not have flowers or fruit. They reproduce by spores, microscopic dust like particles that are released by the hundreds and spread by wind and water. They are typically produced on the lower side of the fronds or “leaves.” When released, each spore grows into a tiny heart-shaped structure called the thallus, which makes male sperm cells at the pointed end and female cells in the notch. After a heavy rainfall, the sperm burst free from the thallus and swim to the female cells, where they are fertilized.


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