How Are Ferns Different From Flowering Plants or Trees?

Updated July 19, 2017

Ferns are members of a family of plants believed by scientists to have been thriving since the age of dinosaurs. Fossilised ferns indicate that the plants existed 345 to 395 million years ago. They thrive in moist conditions and are commonly found growing across forest floors. Their key characteristic is that they reproduce from spores rather than seeds.

Internal Vein Structure

Ferns are leafy plants that grow in moist areas and are known as "vascular plants." This means they have internal vein structures that assist the flow of water and nutrients. Unlike flowering plants and trees that grow from the seed, ferns reproduce from spores.

Growing Conditions

Ferns prefer sheltered areas in forests and only grow in moisture-rich conditions, such as forest, creeks and streams. They cannot grow in hot or dry areas. Moisture is essential for reproduction to occur.


Reproduction can occur only if there are sufficient levels of moisture in the air. Leafy branches on a fern are known as fronds. On the underside are small clumps, spots or patches that look like they have been stuck onto the surface. Inside the patches are spores that grow inside casings called sporangia.


Spores grow into heart-shaped plantlets known as gametophytes. The plantlets have only half the genetic material of an adult fern, but if they fall or get blown onto a suitably moist place, fertilisation takes place and they grow into an adult fern.

Flowering Plants and Trees

Flowering plants and trees reproduce when pollen from a male flower fertilises a female flower. Pollen is usually carried though the air by wind, butterflies, bees or birds. Fertilised cells then grow into seeds that have the potential to grow into adult plants if they are grown in soil with the correct levels of moisture.

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