The leaf-shaped structures of a fern are known as fronds.
The term “frond” is used in several different ways. Most commonly, when someone talks about a foliage, he or she is referring to a punctually compound leaf or leaf-like structure on a plant, such as the leaves of a palm tree. This usage reflects the Latin root of the world, as “frond” is derived from the word for “leaf” or “foliage”. The world of fronds is actually quite complicated, as several very different structures in plants and other organisms are also called fronds.
Classically, a foliage has a feathery appearance, with a long stem in the middle of the structure and lacy extensions that protrude from the stem. In some fronds, each protrusion is entirely separate, while in others, the protuberances can join together before reaching the shaft, creating what is known as a “spanking” appearance that looks like the palm of a hand.
Originally, this term was used to refer to the leaf-shaped structures of a fern. The leaves of a fern are distinct from the leaves of common plants because they contain spores, as ferns do not flower. A fern foliage emerges from the plant’s rhizome, initially developing into a tightly coiled violin head that slowly unfolds. Some ferns also exhibit foliage dimorphism, in which the male and female leaves are very different.
This term is also sometimes used to refer to the stalk of a fungus. Fungi do not have leaves, but some develop masses of tissue that superficially resemble leaves. When a fungus has a stalk that looks like a fern, the stalk can be called a “frond”. Some fungi develop elegant, very lacy structures that actually look like fern leaves, even if they are not true leaves, and occasionally the fungi can even be mistaken for ferns by casual observers.
It can also be said that plants with foliage that resembles that of a fern have fronds. Many ornamental plants have frond-like leaves, and the leaves of some plants, such as palm trees, also have cultural significance. Fronds have been used to cover structures in some societies and as fans, ornaments and even plaques in some cases. They also have a history of use in religious ceremonies, especially in Christianity and Judaism. Gardeners may find the appearance of a plant with large fronds appealing and use it as a display piece in a garden, especially in the tropics where frond-like leaves are very common and some plants grow extremely large.