Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Growing Fern Gametophytes

This is a gametophyte of the fern Dicksonia antarctica. It is only about 1cm across and is composed of a heart shaped sheet of cells that is only one cell thick. 


A gametophyte of Dicksonia antarctica - copyright Jennifer Deegan.


Fern gametophytes are easy to grow. You need a clean pot filled with potting compost. First scald the compost by pouring boiling water through it. This kills off any fungi that could harm the gametophytes. 

Scalding soil before sowing fern spores. Photograph copyright Jennifer Deegan.

Next allow the soil to drain and cool completely to room temperature. Once the soil is cool, sprinkle the fern spores on the surface of the soil. Then enclose the whole pot in a large freezer bag. Inflate the bag by blowing into it, and knot it at the top. The picture below shows a blue bag, but the bag must be transparent, and should ideally be colourless.

Enclosing the pot in a bag to give a humid atmosphere and to avoid needing to water the pot.
Photograph copyright Jennifer Deegan.

Put the whole assembly somewhere at room temperature and check occasionally for growth. The pot will not need watered, and the bag will not need to be removed until the sporophyte plant is well developed. The gametophyte will be visible within a couple of months.