Thursday, June 26, 2008

Life photo meme: staghorn ferns

Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (vascular plants)
Class: Filicopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Family: Polypodiaceae (common ferns)
Genus: Platycerium (staghorn ferns)
I'm not super sure on the taxonomy here, my normally trusty ITIS website has completely failed on finding the common name staghorn or elkhorn ferns. So this taxonomy is a combination from the ITIS and the University of Florida botanical website. There are at least four different species of staghorn ferns native to Australia (where the picture was taken), and several more native to the Americas, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Indonesia.

Staghorn ferns are my favorite fern. They live as epiphytes on trees, by creating these flat, plate-like frond which help sick the plant on the tree. The bifurcating fronds are the ones which produce spores which then blow onto the trunks of other trees. Apparently, the gametophyte (which develops from the spore) is fertilized on the tree trunk from other gametophytes present. How this happens, I don't know. But I guess that when the tree trunk gets wet from ran or dew, the sperm are free to move about the trunk to find another gametophyte. Anyway, the young fern grows some of those plate-like fronds out of the gametophyte to anchor itself onto the tree. The cup shape of the plant captures water and leaves, which decays providing the staghorn with nutrients.

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