Virtual Museum of Canada
Jardin botanique de Montréal 
Centre for Forest Research

Roots for support

Tree ferns can't pretend to belong to the Monocotyledons (Flowering plants whose seeds have one cotyledon.), for they aren't even seed-bearing plants (Spermatophytes (Seed plants.)). These evolutionary throwbacks, which don't have a true trunk and are unable to add any girth, have also come up with a highly creative solution.

The stem of a tree fern is reinforced by a fibrous mass of aerial roots, which start in the foliage and grow down along the stem all the way to the ground. This cloak of roots gives the tree fern the functional equivalent of a trunk, called rooted trunk, able to support the weight of the crown. If the stem isn't strong enough, send in the reinforcements!


Photo of the stem of an arborescent fern (Cyathea australis), covered by a fibrous mass of aerial roots
Cyathea australis
© Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
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