What is a Fern?

Asparagus Fern Macho Fern

A fern is a plant that looks fernish, or has the word fern in its name.   For example, the Macho Fern, the Asparagus fern, or the Elephant-ear fern.   Well... thatís a good start, but there's more to it.
Although these plants either look like ferns or have the word ďfernĒ in their names, one of them is not a fern. If you look closely, the Asparagus Fern (Asparagus sprengeri), looks like a fern until you notice it has white flowers and red berries.   Since ferns donít bloom, an Asparagus Fern canít be a real fern.   Itís just not macho enough.   The Macho Fern, (Nephrolepis falcata, a cousin to the famous Boston Fern often seen in hanging baskets), and the Elephant-ear fern, (Elaphoglossum critnitum), are however true members of the fern club.
So, not everything that looks like a fern, is a fern, and just to make things more interesting, some ferns donít even look like ferns, unless you know what you are looking for.
Well then, in short, what makes a fern, a fern? A fern has:

  • spores on its leaves,
  • no flowers or seeds,
  • and has a vascular system to carry food and water up to the leaves.
    For more information on ferns and to find out how plant taxonomists describe ferns:

    Wikipedia: Wikipedia Ferns