|A Fern Leaf|
|Fern spore-producing structures called sporangia.|
It's difficult to find gametophytes, but its easy to find spores. Just look for dots on the bottom sides of fern leaves - those are pockets filled with microscopic spring-loaded spore-launchers called sporangia. If you could shrink yourself, you could hang out under a fern leaf just for the fun of watching the tiny sporangia catapult their spores. Nature's microscopic fireworks!
|How leaves of flowering plants open up.|
Another difference between ferns and flowering plants is how their new leaves open up. The above plant, a flowering plant, has new leaves that are enlarging and opening by unfolding. The young leaves are small and creased, the mature leaves are open and flat. Below you see a fern leaf opening up. Young fern leaves are small and curled up. When they grow, they unfurl or unroll. Young fern leaves look like the tops of violins (also called fiddles), so young fern leaves are called fiddleheads. Fiddleheads might be green or brown or hairy or look quite different than the leaves they mature into. It's easy to find fiddle heads in the spring and early summer - just look around the base of fern leaves, which we have in abundance all over our outdoor classroom.
|Fern fiddlehead with a spore-producing leaf behind it.|
|More fern fiddleheads.|
|This fern leaf is almost completely unfurled.|
|Moss - an even simpler plant than ferns.|
I will leave you with one last picture of a fiddlehead getting ready to open up and live its life in the world. It's so full of possibility!
|A young fiddlehead.|