Dichotomous Key/Polypodiopsida

A fern is a member of a group of vascular plants that reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. They differ from mosses by being vascular, i.e., having certain tissue that conducts water and nutrients, and having branched stems. Like other vascular plants, ferns have leaves, and these are "megaphylls", which are more complex than the "microphylls" of clubmosses. Most ferns are leptosporangiate ferns, sometimes termed "true ferns"; they produce what are called "fiddleheads" that uncoil and expand into fronds.[1] The group includes about 10,560 known extant species.[2]

Nature print, Alois Auer.jpg
Alois Auer
Kingdom Plantae
Class Polypodiopsida

Information related to Polypodiopsida


Glossary for this page
(all links are to Wikipedia articles)
Bipinnate: Leaf arrangement where the leaflets of a pinnate leaf are also pinnately divided. Also called "twice pinnate".
Midrib: The central, most prominent vein of a leaf or leaflet.
Pinna(e): Leafy segment of a single pinnate blade, sometimes appearing to be an individual leaf.
Pinnule: Ultimate free leaflet of a multi-pinnate leaf.
Rachis: The main stem of a compound leaf.
Spine: A stiff, sharp structure; usually a modified leaf or stem.
Sporophyll: A modified leaf that bears the plant's spores.

Ferns first appear in the fossil record 360 million years ago in the late Devonian period,[3] but many of the current families and species did not appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous, after flowering plants came to dominate many environments. The fern Osmunda claytoniana is a paramount example of evolutionary stasis; paleontological evidence indicates it has remained unchanged, even at the level of fossilized nuclei and chromosomes, for at least 180 million years.[4]


  1. McCausland, Jim (20 September 2009). "Rediscover ferns". Sunset.com. http://www.sunset.com/garden/flowers-plants/rediscover-ferns-00400000016579/. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  2. Christenhusz, M. J. M.; Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa (Magnolia Press) 261 (3): 201–217. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1. http://biotaxa.org/Phytotaxa/article/download/phytotaxa.261.3.1/20598. 
  3. "Pteridopsida: Fossil Record". University of California Museum of Paleontology. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/plants/pterophyta/pteridofr.html. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  4. "Fossilized nuclei and chromosomes reveal 180 million years of genomic stasis in royal ferns". Science 343 (6177): 1376–7. March 2014. doi:10.1126/science.1249884. PMID 24653037.