General Characteristics of Pteridophyta

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General Characteristics of Pteridophyta
Ferns do not produce seeds. (fern image by Andrey Ivanov from Fotolia.com)

Pteridophyta is a phylum of plants widely known as ferns. More than 12,000 different species of ferns are distributed worldwide. They are distinguished from flowering plants by not producing seeds. Pteridophyta members reproduce through spores. Ferns were some of Earth's first land plants. They are vascular and have true leaves.

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Reproduction

Ferns are strongly distinguished from other plants by their method of reproduction. Instead of producing seeds, they reproduce by making spores--microscopic structures that combine with sperm to produce a new generation. Spores are produced that develop into gametophytes. The gametophyte grows into a tiny heart-shaped structure that develops male antheridia and female archegonia that produce sperm and eggs. Sperm from the antheridia fertilise the egg in the archegonia and the gametophyte will develop into a sporophyte--an adult fern.

General Characteristics of Pteridophyta
Spores are produced on the underside of ferns' leaves. (spores...fougère image by rachid amrous-spleen from Fotolia.com)

Habitat

Ferns are usually found in border habitats that other plants find hard to survive in. They grow in rock crevices, deserts, on mountains and in moist and shady forests. Some species are epiphytes that grow without soil on the branches of trees.

General Characteristics of Pteridophyta
Ferns are typically found in moist, shady forest areas. (fern in the forest image by ana malin from Fotolia.com)

Structure

Ferns have fibrous roots. They are generally considered non-woody plants, but some giant ferns can be considered semi-woody. They have green leaves that provide energy through photosynthesis. New leaves grow out of a tight spiral called a fiddlehead. They also have specialised leaves that produce spores called sporophylls. Ferns grow from a rhizome that sits just on top of the soil.

General Characteristics of Pteridophyta
New leaves unfurl from a spiral-shaped fiddlehead. (fern image by Benjamin Jefferson from Fotolia.com)

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