Autochory in ferns, not all spores are blown with the wind

<p>Dispersal is a key process in plant population dynamics. In ferns, two successive vectors are needed: the sporangium catapulting mechanism, and wind or gravity. However, some rock ferns have a growth habit that suggests a kind of autochory by placing spores on the rock surface. Moreover, some ferns show modifications of the sporangial dehiscence. To determine the role of growth habit in spore dispersal, we checked the sporangial opening mechanism and explored the spatial distribution of plants on the walls. The presence of spores of <i>Asplenium celtibericum,</i> a rupicolous fern, in the rock surface was checked. In addition, its sporangial dehiscence, plant size and position in the wall were analysed. Spores and indehiscent sporangia were present on walls at each sampling moment. Their highest number was found close to the plants. There was a positive correlation between crack width and plant size. However, most plants occupy the upper half of the cliffs. The growth habit of <i>A. celtibericum</i> is instrumental to deposit the spores over the neighbouring rock surface, thus enhancing the probability of spores to find suitable crevices for germination. Furthermore, dispersal of indehiscent sporangia might promote intergametophytic mating, and the modified sporangial opening mechanism extends the dispersive period.</p>