, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 53–61 | Cite as

Phenology and wintering capacity of sporophytes and gametophytes of ferns native to northern Japan

  • Toshiyuki Sato


To investigate life history adaptations to cold climates, the leaf development, sporulation period, growing stage of gametophytes, and the frost and drought resistance of sporophytes and gametophytes of 67 fern species native to Kokkaido were studied. Most ferns common in Hokkaido are summer-green with leaves developing during late May to June and decaying during October. Most of the ferns in Hokkaido sporulate during August to early September. Spores dispersed from June to September germinate before winter begins, forming vegetative prothallia. Gametophytes mature only in the following summer. Thus in Hokkaido the gametophytes as well as perennial sporophytes are exposed to severe winter conditions. In order to correlate the life cycles of temperate ferns with winter cold stress, frost resistance of gametophytes, rhizomes, and leaves of sporophytes were determined. Maximal frost resistance of rhizomes reflects the stress conditions of their habitats: rhizomes of forest understory ferns are damaged at-5°to -17.5°C, epiphytic ferns and ferns of habitats exposed to severe frost sustained temperatures of -20° to-40°C. The leaves of winter-green and evergreen ferns resist frost ranging from -25° to -40°C. The leaves of summer-green ferns are killed by late frost below -5°C. With some exceptions, gametophytes of ferns growing on the forest floor resist frost to -40°C and are much hardier than sporophytes. These results suggest the possible restrictive effects of cold climate on the life span of leaves as well as on the sporulation period. If winter cold is one of the decisive factors for seasonality expression and habitat distribution of ferns, the sensitive generation must be the sporophyte rather than the gametophyte. The hardier gametophyte is therefore able to colonize habitats in which the sporophyte is excluded by frost if mechanisms of vegetative propagation are evolved.


Cold Climate Frost Resistance Forest Understory Severe Winter Fern Species 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Toshiyuki Sato
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute of Low Temperature ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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