Brisbane Botanic Gardens - Brisbane QLD
Much goes on in the secret life of ferns. There are two entirely different plants in the life cycle of each fern. The fern plants you see in the Fern House are the spore-bearing sporophyte plants. They produce spores on the under surface of fertile leaves or fronds. This is the way ferns reproduce, as they do not produce flowers, fruit or seeds. We have to look more closely to find the second type of plant. When a fern spore lands in a favourable moist habitat it grows into a small (nearly microscopic) green, heart-shaped plant called a prothallus. This gametophyte plant bears male and female reproductive structures. The male gamete swims across the moist surface to fertilise the female gamete (egg). The new plant formed by this union grows rapidly to form a new fern plant (sporophyte) and the prothallus dies.
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