Fern Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Ferns are often used as decorative plants in gardens and in homes. In this lesson, learn about these ancient plants, and discover the adaptations that help them survive and thrive.

Ferns: Ancient Plants

Have you ever seen a plant on someone's front porch that is full of fluffy leaves but has no flowers? It's very possible that you were looking at a fern. A fern is a type of non-flowering plant that can be found in many locations throughout the world, mostly in tropical areas with warm, wet weather.

Ferns have existed for millions of years and come in many varieties.

Ferns have been around for over 300 million years. Many different types of plants and animal species have not been able to last this long, so why have ferns been able to survive so long when other plants haven't? Well, ferns have adaptations, or physical characteristics, that have enabled them to endure different conditions throughout history. Let's examine some fern adaptations and parts from the bottom to the top.

Adaptations Related to Water

You probably know that plants need water to survive, and most plants have roots that collect water from the soil. Some ferns have other special adaptations that help them to keep water inside of them. If you were to touch a leather leaf fern, you would notice that it feels very waxy, almost like a cactus. This helps to keep the fern from losing water, especially in dry conditions.

Sometimes plants not only have physical adaptations but also the ability to work with other plants or organisms. This ability to work together is called symbiosis. Some ferns work with fungi called Mycorrhizae (pronounced mahy-kuh-rahy-zuh). These fungi help ferns collect more water and even act like medicine to protect ferns from bad things in the soil. In return, the fungi get extra sugar from the ferns.

Rhizomes and Spores

Once water and nutrients are collected by the roots, they shoot up through a part of the fern known as the rhizome, which is like the stalk or stem of the plant. Rhizomes can be found above or below ground. A licorice fern produces a rhizome that actually grows in a horizontal direction. This helps the plant produce more fronds; we'll talk more about fronds later on.

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