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This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when exploring this context – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

Fern

A fern is a green flowerless plant that usually has divided leaves and grows in damp, shady places. Ferns are unique as they have two separate independent living stages.

Botany

Botany is the scientific study of plants. This field of study encompasses terrestrial, freshwater and ocean plants, as well as algae and some non-plants like fungi.

Biosystematics

The study of the variation and evolution of a population of organisms in relation to their taxonomic classification.

Classification

The process of ordering living things into a system that allows scientists to identify them. The Linnaean classification system groups organisms based on what species they are most closely related to.

Herbarium

A collection of dried plants mounted and classified for botanical study or the building or container that holds the plant collection.

Rhizome

A root-like subterranean stem that usually sends roots below and sends up shoots. In ferns rhizomes, can be erect, creeping or vertical (forming a trunk).

Frond

The leaf of a fern. Fronds range greatly in size and can be undivided or multidivided. Fronds serve the dual purpose of photosynthesis and reproduction.

Sporangia

The structures in which spores are produced. Sporangia are found on the underside of fern fronds.

Hybrid

The offspring of two different plant species.

Long-distance dispersal

The movement of a plant or animal across a long distance of unsuitable habitat. Lightweight fern spores scatter easily in the wind and, under ideal conditions, can travel vast distances.

Molecular analysis

The extraction and examination of DNA from cells to reveal information about the evolution and the relationships of different species.

Adaptation

An alteration or adjustment in structure that is often hereditary. An adaptation allows a species to improve its condition in relation to its environment.

Propagation

To multiply by any process of natural reproduction. Ferns propagate through spore dispersal, by transplanting rhizomes and in some cases through bulbils.

    Published 11 October 2010