This book is an attempt to bring a group of lesser known vascular plants to the limelight. Ferns and their allies have more often than always been relegated to classroom lectures with little knowledge of the common genera found in Nigeria. The current classification of ferns and fern allies based on recent findings has been in this book. An album of common Nigerian ferns as well as a dichotomous key has also been presented to assist alt who may be in working with ferns. The author has also discussed fern morphology extensively dealing with the stern, leaves and asexual reproductive structures and highlighting useful taxonomic characters. An introduction to fern ecology is also considered as well as the documentation of the life cycles of representatives of those groups of fern and fern allies found in Nigeria.
Pteridology as a science is focused on the study of ferns and their allies. Although for many years, the volutionarily more primitive fern allies were always grouped together with what was referred to as true ferns and classiﬁed as Pteridophytes, recent molecular studies have shown there is no relationship between the two. Fern allies like Lycopodium and Sefaginella are now considered the ﬁrst vascular plants to colonise the terrestrial environment. Along with ferns and other green plants, these groups of plants play the role of producers in their habitats and by extension help maintain a clean environment. Their destruction along with other green plants has also contributed to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ferns and their allies are particularly interesting since they seem to ‘bridge the gap’ between the lower plants and the higher plants. Sometimes they are considered lower plants and on the other hand, because they have vascular tissues they are considered higher plants.
Many ferns occur in wetland ecosystems, many are epiphytes and some occur among rocks. Generally they occur in delicate habitats which are prone to human activities. This makes this group of plants susceptible to extinction in our locality. Generally, ferns are popularly used in horticulture, researches in genetics and recently in phytoremediation. Few fem croziers are eaten as delicacies and some are obnoxious weeds. As a group they are full of potentials in terms of their phytochemical constituents.
In Nigeria, this group of plants has very often been relegated to classroom lectures and very little in terms of research has been done on them. This work is therefore a step in the right direction to draw attention of researchers to the potentials latently awaiting discovery in this group of plants.
The author, a taxonomist has provided an album of common Nigerian ferns which will be of immense help to non-taxonomists who may be interested in knowing the scientiﬁc names of common ferns. She has also provided a simple indented key to these ferns. Without doubt, this is a valuable resource for all botanists, foresters, horticulturists, ecologists etc. and I recommend it.
Professor G. J. Ebukanson, mni
(Erstwhile President, BOSON)