Ferns of Texas: Why the Lone Star State is So Diverse

Presentation Details

Texas has a surprising number of native ferns and lycophytes, 127 in all, the most of any state in the continental U.S. This is particularly unexpected given that most people associate ferns and related plants with humid, even tropical conditions, just the opposite of much of Texas.

Texas’ diverse species thrive under a variety of conditions including some that are very extreme—in crevices on huge exposed granite outcrops, underwater on the bottoms of ponds or lakes, inside cave entrances, and in the deserts of west Texas. One Texas species has leaves reaching nearly 13 feet in length, while another is a tiny floating aquatic often less than 1/2 inch in total size. Many Texas species occur nowhere else in the entire United States.

This talk will look broadly at Texas ferns, ranging from the swamp forests of East Texas, to the hidden canyons of the Edwards Plateau, and even to the high mountain “sky islands” of such places as Big Bend National Park. It will examine why Texas is such a special place for these fascinating plants.

Equipment Required:
Additional Requirements:
Ecoregions Covered:
Central Great Plains, Chihuahuan Deserts, Cross Timbers, East Central Texas Plains, Edwards Plateau, Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes, High Plains, Southern Texas Plains, Southwestern Tablelands, Texas Blackland Prairies, Western Gulf Coastal Plain

Presenter Information

  • George Diggs

    George Diggs is an evolutionary biologist and botanist who has taught for more than 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, and a Research Associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

    His research interests include the plants of Texas, evolution as it relates to human health, the systematics of the Ericaceae (Blueberry Family), and biogeography.

    He has co-authored four books, including The Ferns & Lycophytes of Texas, co-authored with Barney Lipscomb, and more than 30 scientific articles. In his research he has traveled to all seven continents. He helped found the Public Health program at Austin College and teaches Environmental and Evolutionary Health, including the impact of diet and toxins on human health.