China's flora tour: A little fern forest on a tree
By Xing Fangyu

Walking in the Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey National Park in Weixi County, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, the sounds of the primates linger in thick the forest. If you look up and try to find the "singers," you can only see lefty branches and groups of ferns growing on a tree like a forest.

Named as "the Kingdom of Plants," Yunnan Province has the richest variety of fern species in China. According to the report "Species diversity and floristic composition of the fern flora of Yunnan, China" published by Li Xuemei and her colleagues, the fern flora of Yunnan consists of 60 families, 193 genera and 1,530 species with different varieties and forms. Wood ferns (Dryopteridaceae), lady ferns (Athyrium), and forked ferns (Gleicheniaceae) are commonly seen in the forest.

The life cycle of a fern is unique compared to other plants. Without the flower, a plant normally could not propagate. However, the fern produces spores on the underside of mature plants. After mitosis, the spores grow into small entities called gametophyte to produce both sperm and egg cells to fertilize themselves. And then, a new fern begins to grow.

In the fossil record, the fern first appeared about 360 million years ago. Besides its scientific value, it is also widely grown in horticulture. 

(Video filmed by Yang Yang, edited by Xing Fangyu.)

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