Brake Family

Goldback Fern © DSchiel

Maiden-hair Family
Pteridaceae (ter-id-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Stalks usually dark and wiry
  • Fronds 2-pinnate or more
  • Sori usually hidden under frond margin

Description (Jepson)

  • Ferns (Polypodiopsida)
    • An early group of vascular plants that produce spores (reproductive cells)
      • Produce no flowers or seeds
      • Fossil records date back almost 400 million years, versus 130 million years for flowering plants
  • Perennial herbs
    • Grow from creeping or erect rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
  • Fronds (leaves)
    • Almost always compound (divided into leaflets), with 1-6 levels of division (1-6 pinnate)
    • Young fronds uncurl from tight spirals called fiddleheads
    • Stalks (petioles) generally dark and wiry
  • Sori
    • Sori (singular: sorus) are clusters of spore-producing, sac-like structures called sporangia (singular: sporangium)
      • Sporangia sacs split open to catapult mature, microscopic spores, which are wind dispersed
    • Located usually in the curled-under margins of leaflets, sometimes along veins
    • Have no indusium (plural: indusia), a tissue flap sometimes covering immature sori


See General References

Specific References

American Fern Society. About Ferns.

Pai, A. 2018, Dec. 28. Fantastic ferns and where to find them. Bay Nature.

U.S. Forest Service. What are ferns? Forest Service. United States Department of Agriculture.

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