The Seldom Scene
I have a few *pterible images from that Blue Ridge Parkway meadow full of ferns I discovered a couple of weeks back, and will post one or two of my favorites.
As with wildflowers, the first blooms (as if ferns had them) are most attractive. Ferns, in addition to their lacy leafery, often have this seldom-seen “fertile” stage, as in this Cinnamon Fern, when they are busily producing spores by the millions for dispersal in the wind.
As I’m sure you remember from biology class, those spores, against all odds finding favorable soil, can produce a gametophyte, a little heart-shaped leaf that will produce either an egg, or a flagellated, swimming sperm.
Given the necessary film of water between the two (understand why there are no desert ferns?) the multi-tailed sperm swim to the egg along a chemical gradient (they “smell” the egg, in a sense) and voila! a fertilized egg (the sporophyte phase in this “alternation of generations”) begins to elongate into what will become a fern frond–either a “sterile” leaf-only frond, or one these fancy feather-duster-looking arrangments (or some variation on the theme generally not as gawdy as this) that is “fertile” and spore-bearing.
Now. You may expect a pop test on this at our next meeting. Do your homework.
*Pteridology is the study of ferns, so if I’m having a pterible day, it means I’m seeing lots of them!