Examining Fern Spores
Fall is a wonderful time to get out and take nature walks. It is cool, full of color and learning opportunities. An excellent nature lesson to include during the fall is examining fern spores.
What Are Spores?
Spores are small dots on the underside of ferns.
• Each type of fern produces a different type of spore.
• Spores are like seeds, but different.
• Each fern can drop millions of the little spores onto the ground and only a few will ever grow into new plants because of the conditions present.
Difference Between Seeds & Spores:
• Spores are produced by non-flowering plants and have to have the right environment to grow because they do not contain a food supply.
• Seeds are produced by flowering plants and contain their own food supply inside of them.
Plants That Have Spores
Mushrooms. liverworts, hornworts, mosses, and ferns. Collect a few and have the children examine the plants, under group supervision.
• Fall is the time you can collect and examine spores in Wisconsin.
• Look at the underside of fern plants for plants that have spores.
• Cut off the entire fern frond and stick the entire frond in a paper bag.
• Remember, each spore type is a little different. So, collect a variety to examine.
Close Up Examination:
• Use magnifying glasses to look at how the fronds are attached to the leaves. Nature provides so many teaches moments that are literally right under our noses.
• If the spores are extremely dark, they might start to fall off the fronds – this means they are ripe. This is a natural process in nature. Catch the spores on a piece of white paper.
• If the spores are not falling off the fronds naturally yet, leave the fronds in the paper bag. Soon, the spores will release. Collect the spores, examine and try planting them.
Plant the Spores:
Try your hand at planting the spores. In nature only a few spores find the correct soil, water and conditions to grow new plants. You can try your hand at growing new ferns.
2.) Shake some of the spores onto the soil.
3.) Press the spores with a piece of wax paper lightly into the soil. You want to only make bottom contact soil to spore, not cover the spore.
4.) Mist the surface of the soil and spore.
5.) Place the planting contain into a tray filled with 1-1/2 inches of water.
6.) Cover the top of the pot with plastic, creating a greenhouse.
7.) Place the planter in a warm spot with indirect sunlight.
8.) Keep replacing the tray water and the soil moist using a mist to water.
9.) Spores grow slowly. The spores will sprout at earliest 8 weeks and longest 13 weeks.
10.) After two weeks of growth (they look like little hearts) the ferns can be transplanted to their own pot and kept uncovered.