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  Nature Elective

Life Cycle of a Fern
First posted Feb 14, 2004 Last updated June 26, 2004


The life cycle of a fern is beautiful and complex, but with a little study, you can understand it. Start with number 1 below, the spore. This is like the seed of a flowering plant, in that it is the way the fern reproduces and spreads. A spore, however, is different in that it is a single cell that has only one copy of each chromosome (haploid), and a seed is multicellular and has two (diploid). The spore develops into a plant called a gametophyte that can produce both sperm and eggs. These unite in the processes called fertilization, producing a "baby" fern called a zygote, which now has two copies of each chromosome (it is diploid). By normal cell division, this grows into the fern as we know it, the green leafy plant on the forest floor. The fern produces the spore (still diploid), and the cycle continues.



Campbell's Biology.


The illustration of the life cycle of the fern is from the excellent book Biology, by Campbell and Reece. It is a college text for beginning biology students. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If it has been a few years (!) since you have had biology, you will not believe how much things have changed. Not only is there a lot more known about biology, the presentation of the material is vastly improved. From text that is closer to literature than dry explanation, to color illustrations and color photographs that are so widely used, I doubt that in its entire 1240 pages, there are any without at least three or more color graphics of some sort. And that does not even begin to explore the enclosed CD or associated online material. I will eat my hat if you don't love the book. I bought mine online, at Amazon.com: Campbell's Biology.