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Imagine That! - Fern Power

Imagine That!
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Imagine That! - Fern Power

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

Everyone knows that famous sixties motto -- flower power! But who knew there's an even tougher green on the forest floor -- ferns!

Imagine That!

When flowering plants first evolved over 140-million years ago, much of life on earth changed. This event was at the early part of a force that triggered the origin of many new species, such as birds, bees, and even humans. But many plants were also affected. One of those plants was the fern.

Researchers studying the fern found they're not as delicate as they look.

Imagine you were a small plant trying to live and grow under a thick canopy of flowering plants. Underneath all of those beautiful blooms and leaves, it would be pretty tough to get any sun, or even fresh air. But associate professor Kathleen Pryer and graduate student Eric Schuettpelz at Duke University, along with collaborators looking at plant fossil records and current DNA, found that the ferns had a will to survive. In fact, they hypothesize that ferns may have developed a special low-light photoreceptor to help process whatever tiny amounts of sunlight they could absorb.

Pryer says that very few people have even begun to scratch the surface of the exciting new info and discoveries ferns might provide. But with over ten thousand species, making them second in numbers only to flowering plants, they're sure to deliver even more blossoming details. I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

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