Fern ally

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Fern ally is a general term covering a somewhat diverse group of vascular plants that are not flowering plants and not true ferns. Like ferns, these plants reproduce by shedding spores to initiate an alternation of generations. There are three or four groups of plants considered to be fern allies. In various classification schemes, these may be grouped as classes or divisions within the plant kingdom. The more traditional classification scheme is as follows (here, the first three classes are the "fern allies"):

A more modern or newer classification scheme is:

Note that in either scheme, the basic subdivision of the fern allies is preserved, with the exception that the Ophioglossophyta (Ophioglossopsida), once thought to be true ferns, are now generally regarded by many to be a distinct group of fern allies.

Another way of looking at it is:

Several groups of plants were considered "fern allies": the clubmosses, spikemosses, and quillworts in the Lycopodiophyta, the whisk ferns in Psilotaceae, and the horsetails in the Equisetaceae. More recent genetic studies have shown that the Lycopodiophyta are only distantly related to any other vascular plants, having radiated evolutionarily at the base of the vascular plant clade, while both the whisk ferns and horsetails are as much true ferns as are the Ophioglossoids and Marattiaceae. In fact, the whisk ferns and Ophioglossoids are demonstrably a clade, and the horsetails and Marattiaceae are arguably another clade. (Traditionally, three discrete groups of plants had been considered ferns: the adders-tongues, moonworts, and grape-ferns (Ophioglossophyta), the Marattiaceae, and the leptosporangiate ferns. The Marattiaceae are a primitive group of tropical ferns with a large, fleshy rhizome, and are now thought to be a sibling taxon to the main group of ferns, the leptosporangiate ferns.)

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