Fern (Xiphopteris ascensionensis)

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Fern fact file

Fern description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumPolypodiophyta
ClassFilicopsida
OrderPolypodiales
FamilyGrammitidaceae
GenusXiphopteris (1)

This small fern often grows as an epiphyte on bamboo trees (2). The fronds are short and bear small green leaflets that are tightly packed on the midrib of the frond (3).

Synonyms
Polypodium ascensionense, Xiphopteris ascensionense.
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Fern biology

Ferns are ‘primitive’ plants that spread by releasing spores rather than by producing flowers and fruits. The distinctive frond stage of the fern lifecycle is asexual; spores are released from the fronds, which then germinate into minuscule heart-shaped structures known as ‘prothalli’. It is here that the sexual stage of the lifecycle occurs; male and female organs on the prothallus produce sperm and eggs respectively. If the female eggs are fertilised successfully, a new fern plant will begin to grow and the cycle starts again (5).

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Fern range

Endemic to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Xiphopteris ascensionensis is found on the more exposed side of the main mountain, known as Green Mountain (2).

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Fern habitat

This fern grows in association with mosses, often with Campylopus smaragdinus and Calymperes ascensionis (4). It is found either on moss-covered rocks or on bamboo trees (2), in the mist zone of the upper mountain (4).

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Fern status

Xiphopteris ascensionensis is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Fern threats

Although the population of Xiphopteris ascensionensis appears to be relatively stable at present it may face long-term threats from the spread of introduced moss species such as Alpinia zerumbet, with which it appears unable to grow (2).

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Fern conservation

The population of Xiphopteris ascensionensis is being monitored by Ascension Conservation (2).

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Epiphyte
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Prothallus
A small, gamete-producing structure that germinates from certain spores.
Spores
Microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction. They comprise a single or group of unspecialised cells and do not contain an embryo, as do seeds.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Gray, A. (2003) Red List Assessment Form. Ascension Conservation.
  3. Pers. obs. from image.
  4. Ashmole, P. & Ashmole, M. (2000) St. Helena and Ascension Island: a natural history. Anthony Nelson, England.
  5. Australian National Herbarium (September, 2003)
    http://www.anbg.gov.au/projects/fern/structure.html
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Image credit

Xiphopteris ascensionensis close up  
Xiphopteris ascensionensis close up

© Martin Hamilton / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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