Ferns are older than dinosaurs, first appearing in the fossil record in the Devonian Period around 360 million years ago (dinosaurs first appeared during the Triassic Period, about 231 million years ago).
Like mosses, ferns reproduce using spores. Unlike mosses, ferns are a vascular plant which allows them to grow to significantly larger sizes. The largest fern is Cyathea brownii which is found in South Pacific islands near New Zealand and can grow to over 60 feet tall (20 meters).
Sword ferns, like those pictured above, are native to Western America and are prolific along the coast from Alaska to southern California. They are a very hearty plant and can grow over 5 feet tall. Their spores are known to relieve the painful itch of the stinging nettle, which is also abundant in the region. The Native Salish peoples ate both the mature rhizomes and fiddleheads of the sword fern.