Take a closer look at one of the fern plants around you. You may notice a pattern of veins spreading through the leaf. Ferns are among the oldest lineages of plants, and are the first known group to develop vascular tissue. Similar to our human vascular system, this network carries water and nutrients throughout the organism. This important adaptation allowed ferns to grow larger, like the Tree ferns above you, which can grow up to 30 feet tall. Also on the undersides of the leaves, you might find clusters of spores, which are one of the ways that ferns reproduce.
Observa de cerca uno de los helechos a tu alrededor. Puedes notar un patrón de venas corriendo a lo largo de la hoja. Los helechos se encuentran dentro de los linajes más antiguos de plantas y fueron los primeros en desarrollar tejido vascular. De manera similar al sistema vascular humano, esta red transporta agua y nutrientes a todo el organismo. Esta importante adaptación permitió que los helechos adquirieran mayor tamaño. Tal es el caso de los helechos arborescentes sobre de ti, que pueden llegar a crecer hasta 30 pies de alto. Además, en la superficie inferior de la hoja puedes encontrar grupos de esporas mediante las cuales los helechos se reproducen.
Along with another major group, the lycopods, ferns dominated the early land forests, thanks in part to their vascular systems. The evolution of this system to transport water and nutrients to all parts of the plant allowed them to grow much larger than non-vascular plants like mosses. Ferns are common in many of the worlds ecosystems, and reproduce by spores as opposed to seed. Often associated with shady, wet forests, they grow in a surprising variety of habitats, including the deserts of the Southwestern US and some alpine areas in the Sierra Nevadas.
Our Ferns collection is designed to share the diversity and range of growth patterns within the fern group. Water fern (Azolla filicoides), a tiny aquatic fern no larger than a thumbtack, stands in contrast with the Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi), a towering fern which can grow to 50 feet in height. The Ferns collection, located adjacent to the Ancient Forest is a living approximation of the ancient forests of earth, and is used extensively in our teaching mission.