Page:Parsons How to Know the Ferns 7th ed.djvu/59

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In view of the fact that many ferns bear their spores or "fern-seed" somewhat conspicuously on the lower surfaces of their fronds,
Fig. 8
it seems probable that the "fern" of early writers was our common Brake, the fructification of which is more than usually obscure, its sporangia or "fern-seed" being concealed till full maturity by the reflexed margin of its frond. This plant is, perhaps, the most abundant and conspicuous of English ferns. Miss Pratt believes it to be the "fearn" of the Anglo-Saxons, and says that to its profusion in their neighborhood many towns and hamlets, such as Fearnborough or Farnborough, Farningham, Farnhow, and others owe their titles. The plant is a noticeable and common one also on the Continent.

In 1848 the development of the fern was first satisfactorily explained. It was then shown that these plants pass through what has been called, not altogether happily the modern botanist thinks, an "alternation of generations." One "generation," the "sexual," consists of a tiny, green, plate-like object, termed the