Ferns and lycophytes are two groups of vascular plants without wood, seeds or flowers. They are both ancient groups of plants that once dominated the forests in many parts of the world. They have since been out-competed by angiosperms and gymnosperms as the dominant plants but are still an important component of the plant community in many forests. They are diverse groups of plants with more than 12,000 fern species and around 1200 lycophyte species currently present on Earth
Instead of having seeds, ferns and lycophytes have spores for reproduction and are entirely dependent on wind for pollination and dispersal. Reproducing with spores makes ferns and lycophytes very good at dispersing as spores are very light and can be carried long distances on the wind. This high ability for dispersal means ferns and lycophytes have found their way onto many of the most isolated islands in the world. They have leaves, roots and a stems although they differ significantly from angiosperms and gymnosperms. Ferns and lycophytes differ mostly in the structure of their leaves.
Ferns are an ancient group of around 12,000 vascular plants. They were once the dominant group of plants in forests but are now outcompeted by the more advanced gymnosperms and angiosperms.
Lycophytes, also known as the ‘fern allies’, are a group of roughly 1250 primitive plant species. They similar to ferns but have unique leaves called ‘microphylls’ which have only a single vein.
Fern fronds are the leaves of ferns. They are a major organ of a fern and range significantly between species. The fronds of some species grow as large as 5 m long while others only reach 1 cm in length.
Equisetum is a genus of ferns commonly known as the ‘horsetails’. The Equisetum genus consists of 15 species of considerably unique plants that have distinct growth forms and spores.
Selaginella is a genus of lycophytes commonly known as spike mosses. The genus includes around 700 species of primitive vascular plants that are found in a wide range of habitats around the world.
Isoetes is a genus of plants that almost make up the entire group of plants called quillworts. They are one of the most primitive groups of vascular plants that currently exist on Earth.