The life cycle of ferns is different from other land plants as both the gametophyte and the sporophyte phases are free living. This interactive illustrates the alternation of generations in ferns. Meiosis is a type of cell division that produces gametes — cells that contain half the number of chromosomes than the parent cell. In ferns, these cells are the spores. The typical big fern plant, what it does is, by meiosis, produces spores, and the spores have half the number of chromosomes of the big parent plant.
Ferns are leafy vascular plants. While they have veins that permit the flow of water and nutrients like conifers and flowering plants, their life cycle is very different. Conifers and flowering plants evolved to survive hostile, dry conditions. Ferns require water for sexual reproduction. To understand fern reproduction, it helps to know the parts of fern. Fronds are the leafy "branches," consisting of leaflets called pinnae.