Cinnamon Fern

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Giant fiddlehead of an oriental vessel fern (Angiopteris evecta)
Courtesy of Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney, Australia, via Biopix, CC-BY-NC

About Ferns (Pteridophyta): Life Cycle

On the underside of a fern leaf (frond), you may see rows of brown dots which are clusters of spore cases (sporangia) containing spores. Primitive ferns have large sporangia, but in most modern ferns they are the size of a pinhead or smaller. When the spores are ready, they drop to the ground, or are carried by wind away from the parent plant (the sporophyte). Under moist conditions each spore develops into a new plant that looks nothing like its parent. The new plant (the gametophyte) is tiny, usually heart-shaped, and able to reproduce sexually. It makes eggs and sperm that meet up on the same or different plants. The fertilized egg develops into a new fern (sporophyte). Typically, its fronds are at first small and coiled into a "fiddlehead" like the end of a violin handle, but open up as it grows. Fronds of the mature fern make spores, and the cycle continues.