CRAZY FACTS: Does a fern have a heart?
Indeed, it does! It’s not a beating heart, pumping life-sustaining blood, like mine and yours, but it is life sustaining. The small, heart-shaped gametophyte is necessary stage of reproduction for (most) ferns—and a natural “valentine.”
Unlike the majority of plants with which we are familiar, ferns do not produce seeds. Instead, this ancient lineage of plants, produces spores. Have you ever looked on the underside of a fern and seen fuzzy little circles? These are sori and they hold thousand of spores that will be dispersed by the wind. Spores then develop into heart-shaped gameotophytes and produce eggs and sperm cells, the latter which then have to be dispersed by water. Egg cells are fertilized on the gametophyte and the fertilized cell (a zygote) develops into a full-fledged fern.
A good technical breakdown of the fern life-cycle is available here. For a fun, more readable version, see the story on Sword Ferns in the Uncommon Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest.
Image by kaibara87 via Flickr.