Wonderous whisk fern

!Psilotum nudum @ ORCA by Ken Gonyo copy
Ken Gonyo (Class of 2012) shared this photo of whisk fern (Psilotum nudum) growing at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, which was spotted by Susan Warmer (Class of 2006) on a Wednesday work day. Whisk fern is a very primitive plant, a fern-like vascular plant or a fern ally, which grows epiphytically.

‘Real’ ferns have leaves. Whisk fern does not have leaves – only enations. Its scientific name reflects its lack of leaves and roots: Psilos in Greek means bare, and nudum, you can guess, means nude. Instead of roots, whisk fern has rhizoids, epidermal extensions that aid in the absorption of water and nutrients, as well as serve as a point of entry for mycorrhiza (beneficial fungi).

At Bok Tower Garden near the Pinewood Estate, whisk fern dramatically decorates the boots of this cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) …

Whisk fern has a different life cycle than ferns, known as alternation of generations. Its yellow, reproductive structures (sporophytes) are pictured below …


Its spores spread widely and, if you look for it, whisk ferns can be spotted growing in a variety of locations including on rocks, in potted plant containers, and in stumps, as shown below at Queens Island Preserve (without any reproductive structures) …


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