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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ferns absorb toxic pollutants from air

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Ferns can eliminate toxic substances from air

Fonds of Fern showing Sori- the spore bearing organs

What is a fern and where is it found?

There are varieties of plants small and big, flowering and non- flowering. Among the non- flowering plants, ferns acquire their unique position. These are ancient and seedless plants with specific leaf like structures called as fonds. The small leaflets that make up the fond are called as pinnae. These plants are older than land animals and far older than dinosaurs. These have been reported to be living on earth for two hundred million years before the flowering plants evolved. These plants are found almost every where in the world but in moist shady places. These grow well in old soil rich in organic substances. Taxonomically, all ferns have been placed in a single group of vascular plants known as Pteridophyta.Fern can be seen growing on the inside walls of wells, walls of old buildings, forest floors, banks of streams, and some times on dead barks of old trees as well. There are many different types of ferns like –tree ferns, sweet ferns, water ferns, brittle ferns, interrupted ferns, etc.

There are several thousand of fern species, but most of these fern species are abundant in the tropical rain forests. These are considered to be the most primitive plants to have developed a true vascular system. A vascular system in a plant is the system of organs or tissues which is responsible for the conduction of food and water.

Factors essential for the survival of ferns

A number of factors are essential for the survival of an adult fern and these factors are - moisture in the soil; moisture in the air; suitable nutrients in the soil; sufficient light for photosynthesis; suitable temperatures; protection from wind; protection from too much sunlight; protection from freezing; and dependability and continuity of the previous requirements.

Reproduction in ferns

Unlike the other vascular plants, the flowering plants and conifers where the adult plant grows from seed, ferns reproduce from spores found on their fonds.These life cycle of ferns has two stages- the gametophyte and the sporophyte.

On to the underneath surfaces of pinnae, a number of small clumps, spots or patches are found. These are called as sori (singular sorus). The arrangement of sori on fonds differs in ferns from species to species. A fond having sori is called as a fertile fond. Not all the fonds are fertile. However, fertile fonds develop after a certain period of maturity.

The sori of some ferns remain protected under a membranous structure that often remains globular in shape. These globular structures are called as incidia.In the ferns that don’t have incidia; the sori are open to the world. The sori may also be called as sporangia as they contain spores. Spores are very small structures. If we put a spore sori bearing fond of a fern on paper and keep it pressed overnight, we can find that the spores have been released on the paper in the form of a coloured powder. These show up a fine pattern that trace the form of the fonds.These spores can be black, brown, reddish, yellow or even green. Each one of these spores is capable of growing into a new plant, the gametophyte.

A spore germinates to give birth to a tiny heart shaped structure called as prothallus.which is also called as the gametophyte. This gametophyte is not a full fern. Rather, it is a plant containing half the genetic material of the adult fern. It bears male and female reproductive organs that produce male and female reproductive cells that in turn fuse together to form a compound cell called as a zygote. The zygote develops into a sporophyte plant that is the fern. And the fern may have reproductive fonds that may bear sori to produce spores. Thus the reproductive cycle of ferns goes on.

Role of ferns in cleaning the environment

Many plant species have been reported to filter out the harmful chemicals and increase the level of oxygen in the atmosphere. Ferns also do this help to us. Since ferns require minimum care and upkeep, and can grow in a wide range of climates they can be grown in pots in small houses and apartments too. Where there some plants of ferns are grown the quality of air there remains good and pure.

NASA has been the first organization that conducted substantial research into the role of plants in cleaning and maintaining the quality of air around us. It was during the Sky-lab project of NASA that its scientists conducted research on ferns to use them as cost effective, low upkeep solutions to keep future stations in space suitable to human habitation.

There are a number of plants that draw in different harmful chemicals from the surrounding air and fix them in the soil. On entering into the soil these harmful chemicals loose their properties of harming the environment. Rather, these chemicals gradually become harmless. Though we already know that plants such as ferns and all the others draw in oxygen during the process of photosynthesis and release out carbon dioxide, it is during last few years that we have come to know that plants do even greater favor to us beyond the oxygen enrichment. There are three most common pollutants that are absorbed and fixed by ferns and these pollutants are – Benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.

In the modern age chemicals are regulating our lives in greater ways. Thus our houses have become a fairly toxic endeavor. The increasing use of plastics ranging from sealants to carpeting our houses have become full of off-glossed toxins that keep us sick round the clock though we don’t feel it due to a condition of habit forming. These symptoms of sickness are called as the part of the sick-building syndrome. If we keep ferns and other plants in our houses and close surroundings, these plants will certainly absorb the pollutants present in the surrounding air and deposit them in the soil of the pot where those toxic substances get neutralized automatically. It is reported that formaldehyde, which is a toxin for living system remains present nearly in all the modern buildings. According to an estimation of Environment Protection Agency U.S.A. a volume of 800 cubic foot room contains about 1,800 micrograms of formaldehyde. It can cause bad effects on our nervous system, skin, and respiratory system. All these facts are enough for us to go for keeping ferns as indoor plants and plants in our surroundings.

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