Leptosporangiate ferns are the largest group of living ferns, comprising some 9000 species worldwide. They comprise the subclass Polypodiidae, but are often considered to be the class Pteridopsida or Polypodiopsida, although other classifications assign them a different rank. The leptosporangiate ferns are one of the four major groups of ferns, with the others being the marattioid ferns (Marattiidae, Marattiaceae), the horsetails (Equisetiidae, Equisetaceae), and whisk ferns and moonworts.
There are approximately 9000 species of living leptosporangiate ferns, compared with about 300 for all other ferns put together. Almost a third of leptosporangiate fern species are epiphytes.
These ferns are called leptosporangiate because their sporangia arose from a single epidermal cell and not from a group of cells as in eusporangiate ferns (a polyphyletic lineage). The sporangia are typically covered with a scale called the indusium, which can cover the whole sorus, forming a ring or cup around the sorus, or can also be strongly reduced to completely absent. Many leptosporangiate ferns have an annulus around the sporangium, which ejects the spores.
The pteridophytes are vascular plants (plants with xylem and phloem) that produce neither flowers nor seeds, and are hence called vascular cryptogams. Instead, they reproduce and disperse only via spores. Pteridophytes include horsetails, ferns, club mosses, and quillworts. They are used for medicinal purposes, as soil -binders, and are frequently planted as ornamentals.