Page:Parsons How to Know the Ferns 7th ed.djvu/61

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organs. They resemble seeds in that they are expelled from the parent-plant on attaining maturity, and germinate on contact with the moist earth.

Thus it is seen that the life-cycle of a fern consists of two stages:

First, the prothallium, bearing the reproductive organs; second, the fern-plant proper, developing the spores which produce the prothallium.

Along the moist, shaded banks of the wood road, or on decaying stumps, keen eyes will discern frequently the tiny green prothallia, although they are somewhat difficult to find except in the green-house where one can see them in abundance either in the boxes used for growing the young plants, or on the moist surfaces of flower-pots, where the spores have fallen accidentally and have germinated.

As the fertilization of the germ-cell in the archegonium cannot take place except under water, perhaps the fact is accounted for that ferns are found chiefly in moist places. This water may be only a sufficient amount of rain or dew to permit the antherozoids or fertilizing cells of the antheridium to swim to the archegonium, which they enter for the purpose of fertilizing the germ-cell.

It is interesting to examine with a good magnifying glass the sporangia borne on the lower surface of a mature fertile frond. In many species each sporangium or spore-case is surrounded with an elastic ring, which at maturity contracts so suddenly as to rupture the spore-case, and cause the expulsion of the numberless spores (Fig. 7).