FernsKathleen M. Pryer, Alan R. Smith, and Carl Rothfels
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.
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.close box
Polypodiopsida historically did not include the horsetails or whiskferns, two clades now believed to fall within the ferns. The use of other potential names for this inclusive clade, such as Monilophyta or Moniliformopses, is complicated by the uncertain placement of extinct taxa; these clades may not correspond perfectly with the ferns as here defined.
Another set of names, including Pteridophyta and "pteridophyte," is inappropriate for a different reason. These names are commonly used to refer to all seed-free vascular plants, and thus include both the ferns and the lycophytes (Lycopodiopsida). While these two groups have some life-cycle similarities, they are not closely related. Ferns are more closely related to seed plants ("Spermatopsida"--the gymnosperms and angiosperms) than they are to lycophytes (see the Embryophytes page for the phylogenetic tree linking these taxa).
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Kathleen M. Pryer
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Kathleen M. Pryer at and Carl Rothfels at
Page copyright © 1997 Kathleen M. Pryer
All Rights Reserved.
- Content changed 14 January 2009
Citing this page:
Pryer, Kathleen M., Alan R. Smith, and Carl Rothfels. 2009. Polypodiopsida http://tolweb.org/Polypodiopsida/20615/2009.01.14 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/. Ferns. Version 14 January 2009 (under construction).