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This is an archived version of a Tree of Life page. For up-to-date information, please refer to the current version of this page.


Kathleen M. Pryer and Alan R. Smith
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taxon links [up-->]Leptosporangiate ferns extinct icon extinct icon Phylogenetic position of group is uncertainPhylogenetic position of group is uncertainPhylogenetic position of group is uncertain[down<--]Embryophytes Interpreting the tree
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This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.

The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.

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You can click on the root to travel down the Tree of Life all the way to the root of all Life, and you can click on the names of descendent subgroups to travel up the Tree of Life all the way to individual species.

For more information on ToL tree formatting, please see Interpreting the Tree or Classification. To learn more about phylogenetic trees, please visit our Phylogenetic Biology pages.

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Containing group: Embryophytes

Other Names for Ferns


Pryer, K.M., A.R. Smith, and J.E. Skog. 1995. Phylogenetic relationships of extant ferns based on evidence from morphology and rbcL sequences. Amer. Fern J. 85: 205-282.

Smith, A.R. 1995. Non-molecular phylogenetic hypotheses for ferns. Amer. Fern J. 85: 104-122.

Taylor, T.N. and E.L. Taylor. 1993. The biology and evolution of fossil plants. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Information on the Internet

Title Illustrations
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Scientific Name Cyathea
Comments young leaf of a tree fern
Body Part young leaf (crozier)
Copyright © 1997
Scientific Name Psilotum nudum
Body Part Close view of the stem, showing immature sporangia
Copyright © 1997 Brian R. Speer
Scientific Name Cheiroglossa palmata
Comments a tropical fern growing on tree bark
Copyright © 1997
Scientific Name Osmunda regalis
Location Massachusetts, USA
Comments The royal fern in Julia Child's yard
Copyright © 1997 Nan Crystal Arens
About This Page
We are grateful to Brian R. Speer (Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley); for his patient technical assistance.

Kathleen M. Pryer
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Alan R. Smith
University of California, Berkeley, California, USA

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Kathleen M. Pryer at

All Rights Reserved.

Citing this page:

Pryer, Kathleen M. and Alan R. Smith. 2008. Ferns. Version 23 December 2008 (temporary). http://tolweb.org/Ferns/20615/2008.12.23 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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This page is a Tree of Life Branch Page.

Each ToL branch page provides a synopsis of the characteristics of a group of organisms representing a branch of the Tree of Life. The major distinction between a branch and a leaf of the Tree of Life is that each branch can be further subdivided into descendent branches, that is, subgroups representing distinct genetic lineages.

For a more detailed explanation of the different ToL page types, have a look at the Structure of the Tree of Life page.

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