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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Friday - November 07, 2014

From: Colleyville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Ferns
Title: Environmental factors that affect lifecycle stages of maidenhair fern.
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What are the environmental factors that can affect the lifecycle stages of a maidenhair fern, particularly A. trichorleopis? Thank you

ANSWER:

Ferns have two distinct free-livng forms:  1) the larger sporophyte, the form we generally call the fern plant, that produces spores that are released and grow into 2) the tiny gametophyte, or prothallus, that is not easily seen but produces the gametes (eggs and sperm) that combine to form a new sporophyte.  The eggs are stationary on the prothallus and the sperm are released and have to swim to the eggs in order to fertilize them. The gametophyte is usually dependent on constant moisture for the sperm to reach the egg. Thus, one of the most important environmental factors for the life cycle of ferns is the availability of water.  George Diggs and Barney Lipscomb in The Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas that Adiantum tricholepis (Fuzzy maidenhair fern) sporulates "spring through Nov. depending on rains."  The dispersal of the spores also depends on water and since the spores form the gametophytes that ultimately produce the sporophyte (the fern plants that are perennial) water is vital to the establishment of new populations of plants.

You can find information on other environmental factors that can effect the fern life cycle by searching the Internet (however, not specifically for Adiantum tricholepis).  These factors include:

  • Light—amount and wavelength
  • Temperature
  • Soils—type, pH, chemical make-up including toxic substances

You can see information and photographs of Adiantum tricholepsis on BackyardNature.net in an excerpt from Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter.

You can read the description of Adiantum tricholepsis in eFloras (Flora of North America) which says that this fern sporulates "late winter—early spring."

If you are seeking information about growing ferns, especially inside your home, the University of Georgia Extension Service has an excellent article, Growing Ferns.

 

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