Difference WikiBiology

Difference Between Mosses and Ferns

Main Difference

The main difference between Mosses and Ferns is that Mosses are smaller nonvascular plants that have no true leaves except for tiny shoots, whereas Ferns are comparatively larger vascular plants that have compound leaves.

Mosses vs. Ferns

Mosses are less developed plants than ferns, that are more developed. Mosses are smaller non-vascular plants, whereas ferns are larger vascular plants. The family to which mosses belong is phylum Bryophyta, while phylum Pteridophyta is the family to which ferns belong. The body of mosses plant is less differentiated with no true leaves and only has tiny shoots, while the body of ferns plant is well-differentiated with roots, stems and, true leaves that are large compound leaves, which are divided into many leaflets.

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The height of mosses is restricted to only one meter not more than that; however, the height of some ferns can reach up to 15 feet. Mosses require moist, humid, wet, and shady environments to grow where water should be readily available for absorption. Ferns can manage to grow in dry habitats to live without water in colonized continents as well; ferns were the first plants that managed to adapt to life outside the water, colonizing continents. The spore formation of mosses occurs among the shoots on the tip of the stems under a capsule whereas, the spore formation of ferns occurs under the leaves in the form of clusters.

Apart from roots, mostly mosses consist of rhizoids, which are the outgrowth of root hair; they anchor as well as to conduct water towards the plant. However, ferns are plants with proper true roots.

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Usually, mosses can grow a few centimeters, while ferns can grow more than mosses do; they can grow more than 4.5 cm. As mosses are nonvascular plants, the gametophyte is responsible for the sporophyte in the reproduction of mosses; on the other hand, as ferns are vascular plants, the sporophyte is responsible for the gametophyte. Both sexes male and female gametophytes are present individually in mosses, but both female and male gametophytes are present in the same structure of ferns.

Some of the common examples of mosses include prickly sphagnum, common hair cap moss, clubmosses, sphagnum, and limper. Some main examples of ferns include silver cloak fern, cinnamon fern, fishbone fern, bracken, and leatherleaf fern.

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Comparison Chart

MossesFerns
Mosses are smaller nonvascular plants that have no true leaves, root, and stem except for tiny green shoots.Ferns are comparatively larger vascular plants with compound leaves and leafy fronds.
Family
Phylum BryophytaPhylum Pteridophyta
Type of Plant
Non-vascular plantVascular plant
Roots
Multicellular rhizoidsTrue roots
Height
Their growth is up to several centimeters.Their growth is up to 4.5v meters.
Leaves
Lots of leafletsTrue leafs
Sporophyte
Sporophyte depends on the gametophyte.Gametophyte depends on the sporophyte.
Gametophyte
Male and female gametophytes are present individually.Female and male gametophytes are present in the same structure.
Spore Formation
Production of spores occurs in the capsules, connected to the gametophytes by a stalk.Production of spores occurs underneath the leaves as clusters.

What are Mosses?

Mosses are smaller plants that are nonvascular, and they are less developed as they don’t have true leaves, roots, and stems. The process reproduction in mosses occurs by the production of spores in stalked capsules. They belong to the classification of the phylum Bryophyta plant. Mosses encounter generation changes and adaptations with a gametophyte, which is imminent; therefore, the sporophyte of mosses depends on the gametophyte. Production of spores occurs in the capsules, connected to the gametophytes by the stalk. A filamentous structure comes into existence, called protonema, by the germination of spores, which leads to the generation of single or more stems and then flourish into gametophytes. The structures of leafy shoots are the gametophytes of the mosses.

Mosses are flowerless, dense, clumpy plants that grow in humid, wet, and shady places. The separate plants mostly consist of stems that can be either branched or unbranched that have restricted function in water and nutrients conduction, and only single-cell thick leaves which are attached to stems. Mosses don’t produce seeds and develop sporophytes with unbranched shoots which have capsule present at the tip with enclosed spores after the process of fertilization. The height of mosses can usually reach 0.2 to10 cm; however, some species like Dawsonia are the largest moss throughout the world, whose height is 50 cm.

There are also some mosses that have highly branched stems, and the structures with leaf-like appearance arrange in spiral symmetry around the stem. The mosses are less differentiated with the roots-type structure that is the outgrowth of root hair called rhizoids. These are multicellular structures that anchor the plant and absorb water from the soil to conduct water towards the plant. Male and female gametophytes are present individually in mosses; in the antheridia, the production of male gametes occurs while in the archegonia, production of the female gametes occurs. The archegonia are produced at the tip of the main stem by acrocarpous mosses, but in the case of pleurocarpous mosses, the production of archegonia occurs at the side stems. Sporophytes come into existence by the fertilized eggs on the female gametophyte.

The mosses also have commercial and traditional importance as it is the main component of peat that is used as a fuel, in gardens and florist marketing for decorative purposes, as insulation since they can absorb liquids up to 20 times their weight.

What are Ferns?

Ferns are larger vascular plants that are flowerless and seedless, and their process of reproduction takes place by the production of spores. They belong to the class of phylum Pteridophyta plant. Ferns encounter generation changes and adaptations with the prominent sporophyte, which depends on the gametophyte. The sporophyte body of ferns plant is well-differentiated with roots, stems and, true leaves. The leaves of ferns contain branched vein system and are referred to as fronds, and their young leaves are rolled. The leaves of the fern make a staff structure by uncoiling from a tight whorl known as a monkey tail. Ferns can show variation in size from few millimeters to 10-25 m. Most of the ferns consist of only rhizomes, which are horizontal underground stems, but vertical shoots are also present on soil on the tree ferns.

Most ferns are present in tropical landscapes, while only some species are present in the Arctic and Antarctic landscapes. Costa Rica is a small tropical country that has double species as compared to North America north of Mexico with above 900 species. Some terrestrial ferns grow on dry land, and the rest of them can be present floating on the ponds.

The first plants that adapted to survive outside the water at colonizing continents. Long go 300 million years back, in the Carboniferous era, the ferns were largely the part of forests whose specimens are up to 30 meters high, and their residues are now developed into the largest accumulation of coal worldwide.

The commercial value of ferns is low but used for medicine, biofertilizer, food, for rectifying contaminated soil, and as decorative plants. Some researches of ferns are done for researching their potential that can remove chemical pollutants from the atmosphere. The species of ferns in the world that are important weeds are Bracken and water fern.

The production of spores of ferns occur underneath of the fronds; there are brown protuberances in the structures underneath the leaves where a spore is formed, and these structures discharge its spores in wind or water. The germination of a spore occurs in a gametophyte that is a heart-shaped structure. The female and male gametophytes are present in the same structure, which can produce sperm as well as an egg; therefore, they can fertilize and self cross.

Key Differences

  1. The class of plants to which mosses belong is phylum Bryophyta, while the class of ferns is phylum Pteridophyta.
  2. Mosses are small nonvascular plants; however, ferns are larger vascular plants comparatively.
  3. The height of mosses can reach above several centimeters. On the flip side, the height of ferns can only reach almost 4.5 meters.
  4. In mosses, male and female gametophytes are present individually; conversely, In the case of ferns, both sexes female and male gametophytes are present in the same structure.
  5. The sporophyte of mosses relies on the gametophyte of the plant, whereas the gametophyte of ferns is dependent on the sporophyte.
  6. The spore formation of mosses occurs among the shoots on the tip of the stems under a capsule. On the contrary, the spore formation of ferns occurs under the leaves in the form of clusters.
  7. Mosses mostly consist of rhizoids, which are the outgrowth of root hair. However, ferns are plants with proper true roots.
  8. Mosses require moist, and shady environments to grow, while ferns can manage to grow in dry habitats to live without water as well.
  9. The body of mosses plant is less differentiated with no true leaves and only has tiny shoots while the body of ferns plant is well-differentiated with roots, stems and, true compound leaves, which divide into leaflets.

Conclusion

Mosses and ferns are both primitive, nonflowering, and seedless plants, but mosses are nonvascular plants that lack true leaves, roots, stem, and sporophyte are dependent on gametophyte whereas ferns are vascular plants with well-differentiated true leaves, stems and roots and gametophyte rely on the sporophyte.

Janet White

Janet White is a writer and blogger for Difference Wiki since 2015. She has a master's degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University. Apart from work, she enjoys exercising, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. Connect with her on Twitter @Janet__White