What's a fiddlehead?
This fern leaf structure is known as a fiddlehead. Can you understand why? Does it look tasty? Nearly all ferns have fiddleheads, and many recipes exist on how to prepare fiddleheads. But this part of the plant, the leaf or the frond, also plays a very important role in the fern's life cycle.
Life Cycle of Seedless Vascular Plants
Unlike nonvascular plants, all vascular plants—including seedless vascular plants—have a dominant
generation. Seedless vascular plants include clubmosses and ferns.
shows a typical fern life cycle.
In the life cycle of a fern, the sporophyte generation is dominant.
A mature sporophyte fern has the familiar leafy
. The undersides of the leaves are dotted with clusters of
. Sporangia produce spores that develop into tiny, heart-shaped
. Gametophytes have
. Antheridia produce sperm with many cilia; archegonia produce eggs. Fertilization occurs when sperm swim to an egg inside an
. The resulting zygote develops into an embryo that becomes a new sporophyte plant. Then the cycle repeats.
In vascular plants, the sporophyte generation is dominant.
In seedless vascular plants such as ferns, the sporophyte releases spores from the undersides of leaves.
The spores develop into tiny, separate gametophytes, from which the next generation of sporophyte plants grows.
Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.
Why is liquid water required for sexual reproduction of a fern?
What is a gametangium?
Is the sporophyte haploid or diploid?
Where do the spores form?
Is a spore haploid or diploid?
Spores germinate into what structures?
1. What role do leaves play in the reproduction of ferns?
2. Describe antheridia and archegonia and their functions.
3. Create your own cycle diagram to represent the life cycle of a fern.