What Eats Ferns?

Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Deer, rabbits and some insects eat ferns, while mice, the bullfinch and the short-tailed bat feed on fern spores. Scientists also believe that ferns made up the bulk of many species of dinosaurs’ diets.

Although some animals feed on ferns, the vast majority avoid eating them because ferns produce a chemical toxic to most living things. Scientists believe these dangerous phytochemicals are not present throughout the entire fern plant, leaving the spores relatively toxin-free. According to BBC, researchers found that mice feed on ferns, but only certain parts of the plant and only during certain times of the year. Mice eat fern spores, a reproductive unit, and other fertile parts of the plant between the months of December and February. These spores add vital nutrients to the mice’s diets, and, in turn, the mice help to disperse the spores.

Ferns have fronds instead of leaves, which are made up of many tiny leaves, or pinnae, grouped together in leaflets. These plants thrive in fields and partial shade, such as woods and forests, and grow in large groups called colonies. Ferns reproduce through rhizomes, which are similar to roots that spread out underground and produce more plants. They also produce through spores, which are located under the fronds of the plant and operate much like seeds.