The ferns represent an ancient division of vascular plants (Division Pteridophyta), some of them as old as the Carboniferous Period. The first fern fossils were recorded from the beginning of the Mesozoic era, 360 million years ago. They are considered older than land animals and far older than the dinosaurs. They occupied the earth two hundred million years before the flowering plants evolved.
The majority of the ferns grow in moist areas under forest canopy, in different ecological niches all around the world. Our studies in Leaota recorded over 40 fern species in the virgin forests in Wildland’s properties.
Some ferns play a role in ecological succession as they grow from crevices of bare rock exposures prior to the appearance of forest vegetation. As examples, Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), Wall-Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), Swiss Alpine Spikemoss (Selaginella helvetica), or the Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare) are wide spread on rocky areas, shaded by the deep forests of Leaota.
Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenimum scolopendirium) prefers neutral and lime-rich substrates in beech or mixed forests, including moist soil and damp rock crevices in old walls, whilst Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant) grows better in old Spruce forests; Northern Firmoss (Huperzia selago) grows in the moist Spruce forests, and Dwarf Pine shrubs; Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is one of the more common ferns in damp, shady woodland environments.