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Drynaria and bird’s nest ferns

Many ferns have developed special structures to collect leaf litter. In Asplenium nidus, a common indoor plant known as the bird’s nest fern, these are large funnels. Other species, like those of the genus Drynaria you see here, have evolved modified fronds. With its thick rhizomes Drynaria creeps on its host trees. The stiff, paperlike vertical fronds collect falling organic matter. In time, this matter forms little pockets of humus, and the fern can support itself with nutrients even high in the forest canopy.

If you carefully turn over Drynaria’s large, green fronds, you’ll notice the sporangia arranged in a regular pattern of dots. This is typical for the polypodium family. The bird’s nest fern, Asplenium nidus, is belonging to another fern familiy. Its sporangia are grouped in parallel lines.

Thereby you can notice that the phenomenon of leaf-litter-collectors has developed independently across several different families of ferns.



Audio file download
Drynaria and bird’s nest ferns (MP3, 484 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg