Ferns and the related lycophytes are among the oldest of land plants, with the earliest fossils dating from nearly 400 million years ago. The evolution of an internal vascular system for transporting water, minerals, and food materials allowed ferns and lycophytes to evolve to larger sizes than the non-vascular plants around them. In the earliest periods of their evolution, there were many forms of ferns and lycophytes that are now extinct—including some that reached the size of large trees and formed large forests over many parts of Earth. The remains of these ancient fern and lycophyte forests provide the bulk of the world’s coal beds. Today, ferns and lycophytes remain a diverse group with the greatest abundance in the tropics. They are used extensively in landscape and horticultural display.
NYBG’s Fern and Lycophyte Projects:
Evolution and Development in Lycophytes and Ferns
Monographic and Phylogenetic Studies of Elaphoglossum (Dryopteridaceae)
Phylogeny of Non-flowering Plants
Taxonomic Revision and Phylogenetic Study of Campyloneurum (Polypodiaceae)
Transforming Selaginella apoda into a Major Model Species