The Fern Lover's Companion
George Henry Tilton
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Keren Vergon, Leonard D Johnson and PG
[Illustration: A Fern Lover]
The Fern Lover's Companion
A Guide for the Northeastern States
GEORGE HENRY TILTON, A.M.
"This world's no blot for us
Nor blank; it means intensely and it means good
To find its meaning is my meat and drink."
To Alice D. Clark, engraver of these illustrations, who has spared no pains
to promote the artistic excellence of this work, and to encourage its
progress, these pages are dedicated with the high regards of THE AUTHOR.
List of Illustrations
Key to Genera
Classification of Ferns
The Bracken Group:
The Lip Ferns (_Cheilanthes_)
The Cloak Fern (_Notholaena_)
The Chain Ferns
The Rock Spleenworts. _Asplenium_
The Large Spleenworts. _Athyrium_
Hart's Tongue and Walking Leaf
The Shield Ferns:
Christmas and Holly Fern
Marsh Fern Tribe
The Beech Ferns
The Fragrant Fern
The Wood Ferns
The Bladder Ferns
The Boulder Fern (_Dennstaedtia_)
Sensitive and Ostrich Ferns
The Flowering Ferns (_Osmunda_)
Curly Grass and Climbing Fern
The Grape Ferns:
Key to the Grape Fern
Little Grape Fern
Lance-leaved Grape Fern
Common Grape Fern
Noted Fern Authors
Time List for Fruiting of Ferns
Note: Meaning of Genus and Species
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A Fern Lover
Curly Grass. _Schizaea_
Cinnamon Fern. _Osmunda cinnamomea_
Sensitive Fern. _Onoclea sensibilis_
Ostrich Fern. _Onoclea Struthiopteris_
Interrupted Fern. _Osmunda Claytoniana_
Climbing Fern. _Lygodium_
Flowering Fern. _Osmunda regalis spectabilis_
Adder's Tongue. _Ophioglossum_
Grape Fern. _Botrychium_
Beech Fern. _Phegopteris_
Cloak Fern. _Notholaena_
Filmy Fern. _Trichomanes_
Cliff Brake. _Pellaea_
Lip Fern. _Cheilanthes_
Rock Brake. _Cryptogramma_
Chain Fern. _Woodwardia_
Shield Fern. _Polystichum_
Wood Fern. _Aspidium_
Bladder Fern. _Cystopteris_
Hayscented Fern. _Dennstaedtia_
Hart's Tongue. _Scolopendrium_
Walking Fern. _Camptosorus_
Sporangia of the Five Families
Common Polypody. _Polypodium vulgare_
Sori of Polypody
Polypody in mass (Greenwood)
Gray Polypody. _Polypodium incanum_
Brake. Bracken. Sterile Frond
Bracken. Fertile Frond
Bracken, var. _pseudocaudata_
Spray of Maidenhair
Sori of Maidenhair
Maidenhair. _Adiantum pedatum_
Venus-Hair Fern. _Adiantum capillus-veneris_
Purple Cliff Brake. _Pellaea atropurpurea_
Dense Cliff Brake. _Cryptogramma densa_
Slender Cliff Brake. _Cryptogramma Stelleri_
Parsley Fern. _Cryptogramma acrostichoides_
Alabama Lip Fern. _Cheilanthes alabamensis_
Hairy Lip Fern. _Cheilanthes lanosa_
Slender Lip Fern. _Cheilanthes Feei_
Pinnae of Slender Lip Fern
Powdery Cloak Fern. _Notholaena dealbata_
Common Chain Fern. _Woodwardia virginica_
Net-veined Chain Fern. _Woodwardia areolata_
Pinnatifid Spleenwort. _Asplenium pinnatifidum_
Scott's Spleenwort. _Asplenium ebenoides_
Green Spleenwort. _Asplenium viride_
Maidenhair Spleenwort. _Asplenium Trichomanes_
Maidenhair Spleenwort. _Asplenium Trichomanes_ (Fernery)
Ebony Spleenwort. _Asplenium platyneuron_
Bradley's Spleenwort. _Asplenium Bradleyi_
Mountain Spleenwort. _Asplenium montanum_
Rue Spleenwort. _Asplenium Ruta-muraria_
Rootstock of Lady Fern (Two parts)
Sori of Lady Fern. _Athyrium angustum_
Varieties of Lady Fern
Lowland Lady Fern. _Athyrium asplenioides_
Silvery Spleenwort. _Athyrium acrostichoides_
Narrow-leaved Spleenwort. _Athyrium angustifolium_
Pinnae and Sori of _Athyrium angustifolium_
Sori of _Scolopendrium vulgare_
Hart's Tongue. _Scolopendrium vulgare_
Walking Fern. _Camptosorus rhizophyllus_
Christmas Fern. _Polystichum acrostichoides_
Varieties of Christmas Fern
Braun's Holly Fern. _Polystichum Braunii_
Holly Fern. _Polystichum Lonchitis_
Marsh Fern. _Aspidium Thelypteris_
Marsh Fern, in the mass
Massachusetts Fern. _Aspidium simulatum_
New York Fern. _Aspidium noveboracense_
Sori of _Aspidium noveboracense_
Pinnae and Sori of _Aspidium noveboracense_
Oak Fern. _Phegopteris Dryopteris_
Northern Oak Fern. _Phegopteris Robertiana_
Broad Beech Fern. _Aspidium hexagonoptera_
Long Beech Fern. _Aspidium polypedioides_
Fragrant Fern. _Aspidium fragrans_
Marginal Shield Fern. _Aspidium marginale_
Crown of Fronds of _Aspidium marginale_
Sori of _Aspidium marginale_
Male Fern. _Aspidium Filix-mas_
_Aspidium Filix-mas_ and details
Goldie's Shield Fern. _Aspidium Goldianum_
_Aspidium Goldianum_, in the mass
Crested Shield Fern. _Aspidium cristatum_
Crested Shield Fern. _Aspidium cristatum_ (No. 2)
Clinton's Shield Fern. _Aspidium cristatum_ var. _Clintonianum_
Crested Marginal Fern. _Aspidium cristatum x marginale_
_Aspidium cristatum x marginale_, in the mass
Boott's Shield Fern. _Aspidium Boottii_
Spinulose Shield Fern. _Aspidium spinulosum_
_Aspidium spinulosum_ var. _intermedium_
_Aspidium spinulosum_ var. _americanum_
Bulblet Bladder Fern. _Cystopteris bulbifera_
_Cystopteris bulbifera_ with sprouting bulb
Fragile Bladder Fern. _Cystopteris fragilis_
Rusty Woodsia. _Woodsia ilvensis_
Northern Woodsia. _Woodsia alpina_
Details of Alpine Woodsia
Blunt-lobed Woodsia. _Woodsia obtusa_
Smooth Woodsia. _Woodsia glabella_
Hayscented Fern. _Dennstaedtia punctilobula_
Forked variety of _Dennstaedtia punctilobula_
Field View of _Dennstaedtia punctilobula_
Pinnae and Sori of _Dennstaedtia punctilobula_
Meadow View of Sensitive Fern
Obtusilobata Forms of Sensitive Fern, Leaf to Fruit
Sori of Sensitive Fern
Sensitive Fern. _Onoclea sensibilis_
Sensitive Fern, Fertile and Sterile Fronds on Same Plant
Ostrich Fern. _Onoclea Struthiopteris_. Fertile Fronds
Ostrich Fern. Sterile Fronds
Sori and Sporangia of Ostrich Fern
Royal Fern. _Osmunda regalis spectabilis_
Sori of Royal Fern
Interrupted Fern. _Osmunda Claytoniana_
Interrupted Fern. Fertile Pinnules Spread Open
Cinnamon Fern. _Osmunda cinnamomea_
Cinnamon Fern. Leaf Gradations
Two Varieties of Cinnamon Fern
_Osmunda cinnamomea glandulosa_
Curly Grass. _Schizaea pusilla_
Sporangia of Curly Grass
Climbing Fern. _Lygodium palmatum_
Adder's Tongue. _Ophioglossum vulgatum_
Moonwort. _Botrychium Lunaria_
Little Grape Fern. _Botrychium simplex_
Lance-leaved Grape Fern. _Botrychium lanceolatum_
Matricary Grape Fern. _Botrychium ramosum_
Common Grape Fern. _Botrychium obliquum_
_Botrychium obliquum_ var. _dissectum_
_Botrychium obliquum_ var. _oneidense_
Ternate Grape Fern. _Botrychium ternatum_ var. _intermedium_
Ternate Grape Fern. _B. ternatum_ var. _intermedium_
Rattlesnake Fern. _Botrychium virginianum_
Filmy Fern. _Trichomanes Boschianum_
Fruiting Pinnules of Filmy Fern
Noted Fern Authors
Spray of the Bulblet Bladder Fern
A lover of nature feels the fascination of the ferns though he may know
little of their names and habits. Beholding them in their native haunts,
adorning the rugged cliffs, gracefully fringing the water-courses, or
waving their stately fronds on the borders of woodlands, he feels their
call to a closer acquaintance. Happy would he be to receive instruction
from a living teacher: His next preference would be the companionship of a
good fern book. Such a help we aim to give him in this manual. If he will
con it diligently, consulting its glossary for the meaning of terms while
he quickens his powers of observation by studying real specimens, he may
hope to learn the names and chief qualities of our most common ferns in a
Our most productive period in fern literature was between 1878, when
Williamson published his "Ferns of Kentucky," and 1905, when Clute
issued, "Our Ferns in Their Haunts." Between these flourished D.C. Eaton,
Davenport, Waters, Dodge, Parsons, Eastman, Underwood, A.A. Eaton, Slosson,
and others. All their works are now out of print except Clute's just
mentioned and Mrs. Parsons' "How to Know the Ferns." Both of these
are valuable handbooks and amply illustrated. Clute's is larger, more
scholarly, and more inclusive of rare species, with an illustrated key to
the genera; while Mrs. Parsons' is more simple and popular, with a naive
charm that creates for it a constant demand.
We trust there is room also for this unpretentious, but progressive,
handbook, designed to stimulate interest in the ferns and to aid the
average student in learning their names and meaning. Its geographical
limits include the northeastern states and Canada. Its nomenclature follows
in the main the seventh edition of Gray's Manual, while the emendations
set forth in _Rhodora_, of October, 1919, and also a few terms of later
adoption are embodied, either as synonyms or substitutes for the more
familiar Latin names of the Manual, and are indicated by a different type.
In every case the student has before him both the older and the more recent
terms from which to choose. However, since the book is written primarily
for lovers of Nature, many of whom are unfamiliar with scientific terms,
the common English names are everywhere given prominence, and strange to
say are less subject to change and controversy than the Latin. There is
no doubt what species is meant when one speaks of the Christmas fern, the
ostrich fern, the long beech fern, the interrupted fern, etc. The use of
the common names will lead to the knowledge and enjoyment of the scientific
A friend unfamiliar with Latin has asked for pointers to aid in pronouncing
the scientific names of ferns. Following Gray, Wood, and others we have
marked each accented syllable with either the grave (`) or acute ()
accent, the former showing that the vowel over which it stands has its long
sound, while the latter indicates the short or modified sound. Let it be
remembered that any syllable with either of these marks over it is the
accented syllable, whose sound will be long or short according to the slant
of the mark.
We have appropriated from many sources such material as suited our purpose.
Our interest in ferns dates back to our college days at Amherst, when we
collected our first specimens in a rough, bushy swamp in Hadley. We found
here a fine colony of the climbing fern (_Lygodium_). We recall the slender
fronds climbing over the low bushes, unique twiners, charming, indeed, in
their native habitat. We have since collected and studied specimens of
nearly every New England fern, and have carefully examined most of the
other species mentioned in this book. By courtesy of the librarian, Mr.
William P. Rich, we have made large use of the famous Davenport herbarium
in the Massachusetts Horticultural library, and through the kindness of
the daughter, Miss Mary E. Davenport, we have freely consulted the larger
unmounted collection of ferns at the Davenport homestead, at Medford,
finding here a very large and fine assortment of _Botrychiums_, including a
real _B. ternatum_ from Japan.
[Footnote 1: Recently donated to the Gray Herbarium.]
For numerous facts and suggestions we are indebted to the twenty volumes of
the _Fern Bulletin_, and also to its able editor, Mr. Willard N. Clute. To
him we are greatly obligated for the use of photographs and plates, and
especially for helpful counsel on many items. We appreciate the helpfulness
of the _American Fern Journal_ and its obliging editor, Mr. E.J. Winslow.
To our friend, Mr. C.H. Knowlton, our thanks are due for the revision of
the checklist and for much helpful advice, and we are grateful to Mr.
S.N.F. Sanford, of the Boston Society of Natural History, for numerous
courtesies; but more especially to Mr. C.A. Weatherby for his expert and
helpful inspection of the entire manuscript.
The illustrations have been carefully selected; many of them from original
negatives bequeathed to the author by his friend, Henry Lincoln Clapp,
pioneer and chief promoter of school gardens in America. Some have been
photographed from the author's herbarium, and from living ferns. A few
are from the choice herbarium of Mr. George E. Davenport, and also a few
reprints have been made from fern books, for which due credit is given. The
Scott's spleenwort, on the dedication page, is reprinted from Clute's "Our
Ferns in Their Haunts."
Thoreau tells us, "Nature made a fern for pure leaves." Fern leaves are in
the highest order of cryptogams. Like those of flowering plants they are
reinforced by woody fibres running through their stems, keeping them erect
while permitting graceful curves. Their exquisite symmetry of form, their
frequent finely cut borders, and their rich shades of green combine to make
them objects of rare beauty; while their unique vernation and method of
fruiting along with their wonderful mystery of reproduction invest them
with marked scientific interest affording stimulus and culture to the
thoughtful mind. By peculiar enchantments these charming plants allure the
ardent Nature-lover to observe their haunts and habits.
"Oh, then most gracefully they wave
In the forest, like a sea,
And dear as they are beautiful
Are these fern leaves to me."
As a rule the larger and coarser ferns grow in moist, shady situations, as
swamps, ravines, and damp woods; while the smaller ones are more apt to be
found along mountain ranges in some dry and even exposed locality. A tiny
crevice in some high cliff is not infrequently chosen by these fascinating
little plants, which protect themselves from drought by assuming a mantle
of light wool, or of hair and chaff, with, perhaps, a covering of white
powder as in some cloak ferns--thus keeping a layer of moist air next to
the surface of the leaf, and checking transpiration.
Some of the rock-loving ferns in dry places are known as "resurrection"
ferns, reviving after their leaves have turned sere and brown. A touch of
rain, and lo! they are green and flourishing.
Ferns vary in height from the diminutive filmy fern of less than an inch
to the vast tree ferns of the tropics, reaching a height of sixty feet or
Ferns are propagated in various ways. A frequent method is by perennial
rootstocks, which often creep beneath the surface, sending up, it may be,
single fronds, as in the common bracken, or graceful leaf-crowns, as in the
cinnamon fern. The bladder fern is propagated in part from its bulblets,
while the walking leaf bends over to the earth and roots at the tip.
[Illustration: MALE SHIELD FERN. Fern Reproduction by the Prothallium]
Ferns are also reproduced by spores, a process mysterious and marvellous as
a fairy tale. Instead of seeds the fern produces spores, which are little
one-celled bodies without an embryo and may be likened to buds. A
spore falls upon damp soil and germinates, producing a small, green,
shield-shaped patch much smaller than a dime, which is called a prothallium
(or prothallus). On its under surface delicate root hairs grow to give it
stability and nutriment; also two sorts of reproductive organs known as
antheridia and archegonia, the male and female growths analogous to the
stamens and pistils in flowers. From the former spring small, active,
spiral bodies called antherozoids, which lash about in the moisture of
the prothallium until they find the archegonia, the cells of which are so
arranged in each case as to form a tube around the central cell, which is
called the ooesphere, or egg-cell, the point to be fertilized. When one
of the entering antherozoids reaches this point the desired change is
effected, and the canal of the archegonium closes. The empty ooesphere
becomes the quickened ooesphore whose newly begotten plant germ unfolds
normally by the multiplication of cells that become, in turn, root, stem,
first leaf, etc., while the prothallium no longer needed to sustain its
offspring withers away.
[Footnote 1: In the accompanying illustration, it should be remembered that
the reproductive parts of a fern are microscopic and cannot be seen by the
Fern plants have been known to spring directly from the prothallus by a
budding process apart from the organs of fertilization, showing that Nature
"fulfills herself in many ways."
[Footnote 2: The scientific term for this method of reproduction is apogamy
(apart from marriage). Sometimes the prothallus itself buds directly from
the frond without spores, for which process the term apospory is used.
(Meaning, literally, without spores.)]
All true ferns come out of the ground head foremost, coiled up like a
watch-spring, and are designated as "fiddle-heads," or crosiers. (A real
crosier is a bishop's staff.) Some of these odd young growths are covered
with "fern wool," which birds often use in lining their nests. This wool
usually disappears later as the crosier unfolds into the broad green blade.
The development of plant shoots from the bud is called vernation (Latin,
_ver_ meaning spring), and this unique uncoiling of ferns, "circinnate
The veins of a fern are free, when, branching from the mid-vein, they do
not connect with each other, and simple when they do not fork. When
the veins intersect they are said to anastomose (Greek, an opening, or
network), and their meshes are called areolae or areoles (Latin, _areola_, a
little open space).
EXPLANATION OF TERMS
A frond is said to be pinnate (Latin, _pinna_, a feather), when its primary
divisions extend to the rachis, as in the Christmas fern (Fig. 1). A frond
is bipinnate (Latin, _bis_, twice) when the lobes of the pinnae extend to
the midvein as in the royal fern (Fig. 2). These divisions of the pinnae are
called pinnules. When a frond is tripinnate the last complete divisions are
called ultimate pinnules or segments. A frond is pinnatifid when its lobes
extend halfway or more to the rachis or midvein as in the middle lobes
of the pinnatifid spleenwort (Fig. 3). The pinnae of a frond are often
pinnatifid when the frond itself is pinnate; and a frond may be pinnate
in its lower part and become pinnatifid higher up as in the pinnatifid
spleenwort just mentioned (Fig. 3).
[Illustration: Fig. 1]
[Illustration: Fig. 2]
[Illustration: Fig. 3]
The divisions of a pinnatifid leaf are called segments; of a bipinnatifid
or tripinnatifid leaf, ultimate segments.
SPORANGIA AND FRUIT DOTS
Fern spores are formed in little sacs known as spore-cases or sporangia
(Fig. 4). They are usually clustered in dots or lines on the back or margin
of a frond, either on or at the end of a small vein, or in spike-like
racemes on separate stalks. Sori (singular _sorus_, a heap), or fruit dots
may be naked as in the polypody, but are usually covered with a thin,
delicate membrane, known as the indusium (Greek, a dress, or mantle). The
family or genus of a fern is often determined by the shape of its indusium;
e.g., the indusium of the woodsias is star-shaped; of the Dicksonias,
cup-shaped; of the aspleniums, linear; of the wood ferns, kidney-shaped,
[Illustration: Fig. 4]
In many ferns the sporangia are surrounded in whole or in part by a
vertical, elastic ring (annulus) reminding one of a small, brown worm
closely coiled (Fig. 4). As the spores mature, the ring contracts and
bursts with considerable force, scattering the spores. The spores of the
different genera mature at different times from May to September. A good
time to collect ferns is just before the fruiting season. (For times of
fruiting see individual descriptions or chronological chart on page 220.)
The following hints may be helpful to the young collector:
1. A good lens with needles for dissecting is very helpful in examining the
sori, veins, glands, etc., as an accurate knowledge of any one of these
items may aid in identifying a given specimen. Bausch and Lomb make a
convenient two-bladed pocket glass for about two dollars.
[Footnote 1: In the linen tester here figured (cost $1.50) the lens is
mounted in a brass frame which holds it in position, enabling the dissector
to use both hands. A tripod lens will also be found cheap and serviceable.]
2. Do not exterminate or weaken a fern colony by taking more plants than it
can spare. In small colonies of rare ferns take a few and leave the rest to
grow. It is decidedly ill-bred to rob a locality of its precious plants.
Pick your fern leaf down close to the root-stock, including a portion of
that also, if it can be spared. Place your fronds between newspaper sheets
and lay "dryers" over them (blotting paper or other absorbent paper). Cover
with a board or slat frame, and lay on this a weight of several pounds,
leaving it for twenty-four hours; if the specimens are not then cured,
change the dryers. Mount the prepared specimens on white mounting sheets.
The regulation size is 16-1/2 by 11-1/2 inches. The labels are usually
3-3/4 by 1-3/4 inches. A sample will suggest the proper inscription.
HERBARIUM OF JOHN DOE
_Ophioglossum vulgatum_, L.
Willoughby Lake, Vt.
August 19, 1911. Wet meadow.
Coll. X.Y.Z. Rather common
but often overlooked
Place the label at the lower right-hand corner of the sheet, which is now
ready to be laid in the genus cover, usually of manila paper 16-1/2 by 12
It is well to jot down important memoranda at the time of collecting. This
is the method in use at the Gray Herbarium in Cambridge. It can, of course,
be modified to suit one's own taste or convenience. The young collector can
begin by simply pressing his specimens between the leaves of a book,
the older and coarser the better; and he can mount them in a blank book
designed for the purpose, or if he has only a common blank book, he can cut
out some of the leaves, alternately with others left in place, as is often
done with a scrap book, that when the book is full it may not be crowded at
the back. Or he can use sheets of blank paper of any uniform size and mount
the specimens on these with gummed strips, and then group them, placing
those of the same genus together. Such an extemporized herbarium, though
crude, will serve for a beginning, while stimulating his interest, and
advancing his knowledge of the ferns. Let him collect, press, and mount
as many varieties as possible, giving the name with date and place of
collecting, etc. Such a first attempt may be kept as a reminder of pleasant
hours spent in learning the rudiments of a delightful study.
We cannot insist too strongly upon the necessity of handling and studying
the living plant. Every student needs to observe for himself the haunts,
habits, and structure of real ferns. We would say to the young student,
while familiarizing yourself with the English names of the ferns, do not
neglect the scientific names, which often hold the key to their meaning.
Repeat over and over the name of each genus in soliloquy and in
conversation until your mind instantly associates each fern with its family
name--"_Adiantum_," "_Polystichum_," "_Asplenium_," and all the rest. Fix
them in the memory for a permanent asset. With hard study and growing
knowledge will come growing attachment. How our great expert, Mr.
Davenport, loved the ferns! He would handle them with gentle touch, fondly
stroke their leaves, and devoutly study their structure, as if inspired by
the All-wise Interpreter.
"Move along these shades
In gentleness of heart: with gentle hand
Touch--for there is a spirit in the woods."
KEY TO THE GENERA
This key, in illustrating each genus, follows the method of Clute in "Our
Ferns in Their Haunts," but substitutes other and larger specimens. Five of
these are from Waters' "Ferns" by permission of Henry Holt & Co.
As the indusium, which often determines the name of a fern, is apt in some
species to wither early, it is important to secure for study not only a
fertile frond, but one in as good condition as possible. For convenience
the ferns may be considered in two classes.
THOSE WHICH HAVE THE FRUITING PORTION IN GREENISH, BERRY-LIKE STRUCTURES
AND NOT ON THE BACK OF FRONDS
A. FRUITING FRONDS WHOLLY FERTILE
(Fertile and sterile fronds entirely unlike)
1. Fruit in a one-sided spike in two ranks; plants very small; sterile
fronds thread-like and tortuous.
Curly Grass. _Schizaea_.
2. Fruit in a club-shaped, brown or cinnamon-colored spike loaded with
sporangia; fruit in early spring.
Cinnamon Fern. _Osmunda cinnamomea_.
3. Fruit in berry-like, greenish structures in a twice pinnate spike, which
comes up much later than the broad and coarse pinnatifid sterile fronds.
Wet ground. Sensitive Fern. _Onoclea_.
4. Fruit in pod-like or necklace-like pinnae; fertile frond pinnate; sterile
frond tall, pinnatifid; fruit late.
Ostrich Fern. _Onoclea struthiopteris_.
B. FRUITING FRONDS PARTLY STERILE
1. Fruiting portion in the middle of the frond; two to four pairs of
Interrupted Fern. _Osmunda Claytoniana_.
2. Fruiting portion at the apex of the frond. Sterile pinnae palmate; rachis
Climbing Fern. _Lygodium_.
Sterile pinnae pinnate; fronds large, fertile portion green, turning brown,
forming a panicle at the top.
Royal Fern. _Osmunda regalis_.
3. Fruiting portion seemingly on a separate stock a few inches above the
Sterile part an entire, ovate, green leaf near the middle; fertile part a
Adder's Tongue. _Ophioglossum_.
Sterile portion more or less divided; fruit in racemes or panicles, rarely
Grape Ferns. Moonwort. _Botrychium_.
THOSE WHICH HAVE THE FRUITING PORTION ON THE BACK OR MARGIN OF FRONDS
A. INDUSIUM WANTING
1. Fruit-dots large, roundish; fronds evergreen. Rock species.
2. Fruit-dots small, roundish; fronds triangular.
Beech Ferns. _Phegopteris_.
3. Fruit in lines on the margin of the pinnules; under surface of the
fronds covered with whitish powder.
Cloak Ferns. _Notholaena_.
B. INDUSIUM PRESENT
1. Sori on the edge of a pinnule terminating a vein; sporangia at the base
of a long, bristle-like receptacle surrounded by a cup-shaped indusium.
Filmy Fern. _Trichomanes_.
2. Indusium formed by the reflexed margin of the pinnules.
(1) Sporangia on a continuous line; fronds large, ternate; indusium narrow.
Bracken. Brake. _Pteris_.
(2) Sporangia in oblong sori under a reflexed tooth of a pinnule; indusium
broad; rachis dark and shining. Maidenhair. _Adiantum_.
(3) Sori in roundish or elongated masses.
Indusium broad, nearly continuous, fronds mostly smooth, somewhat leathery,
pinnate. Rock species. Cliff brakes. _Pellaea_.
Indusium narrow, seldom continuous, formed by the margin of separate lobes
or of the whole pinnules; often inconspicuous, fronds usually hairy. Lip
Indusium of the reflexed edges, at first reaching to the midrib, or nearly
so; later opening out nearly flat; fruiting pinnules pod-like; sterile
fronds broad. Rock brakes. _Cryptogramma_.
3. Indusium never formed of the margin of the frond. Sori various.
(1) Fruit-dots oblong, parallel with the midrib, somewhat sunken in the
tissues of the frond. Water-loving species. Chain Ferns. _Woodwardia_.
(2) Fruit-dots and indusium roundish.
Indusium shield-shaped, fixed by the center. Evergreen glossy ferns in
rocky woods. Shield Ferns. _Polystichum_.
Indusium cordate, fixed by the sinus. Wood Ferns. _Aspidium_.
Indusium hood-shaped, fixed centrally behind the sorus and arching over it,
soon withering, often illusive. Fronds two to three pinnate, very graceful.
Moisture-loving species. Bladder Ferns. _Cystopteris_.
Indusium star-shaped, of a few irregular segments fixed beneath the sorus,
often obscure. Mostly small, rock-loving plants, usually rather chaffy, at
least at the base, and growing in tufts. _Woodsia_.
Indusium cup-shaped, fixed beneath the sorus, supported by the tooth of a
leaf; sporangia borne in an elevated, globular receptacle open at the top.
Fronds finely cut. Hayscented Fern. _Dennstaedtia_.
(3) Fruit-dots and indusium linear. (But see _Athyrium_.)
Very long, nearly at right angles to the midrib, double; blade thick
oblong-lanceolate, entire; heart-shaped at the base. Hart's Tongue.
Shorter and irregularly scattered on the under side of the frond, some
parallel to the midrib, others oblique to it, and often in pairs or joined
at the ends; blade tapering to a slender tip. Walking Fern. _Camptosorus_.
Short, straight, mostly oblique to the midrib. Indusium rather narrow,
opening toward the midrib, fronds lobed or variously divided. Spleenworts.
Short, indusium usually more or less curved and frequently crossing a vein.
The large spleenworts including Lady Fern. _Athyrium_.
DESCRIPTIVE TEXT OF THE FERNS
In this manual our native ferns are grouped scientifically under five
distinct families. By far the largest of these groups, and the first to be
treated, is that of the _real ferns (Polypodiaceae)_ with sixty species and
several chief varieties. Then follow the _flowering ferns (Osmundaceae)_
with three species; the _curly grass_ and _climbing ferns (Schizaeaceae)_
with two species; the _adder's tongue_ and _grape ferns (Ophioglossaceae)_
with seven species; and the _filmy ferns (Hymenophyllaceae)_ with one
Corresponding with these five families, the sporangia or spore cases of
ferns have five quite distinct forms on which the families are founded.
[Illustration: Fig. 1]
[Illustration: Fig. 2]
[Illustration: Fig. 3]
[Illustration: Fig. 4]
1. The Fern Family proper (_Polypodiaceae_) has the spore cases stalked and
bound by a vertical, elastic ring (Fig. 1). The clusters of fruit-dots
containing the spore cases may be open and naked as in polypody (Fig. 2),
or covered by an indusium, as in the shield ferns (Fig. 3).
2. The Royal Fern Family (_Osmunda_) has the spore cases stalked with only
a rudimentary ring on one side, which opens longitudinally (Fig. 4).
3. The Climbing Fern Family (_Lygodium, Schizaea_) has the spore cases
sessile in rows; they are small, nut-like bodies with the elastic ring
around the upper portion (Fig. 5).
[Footnote 1: These figures are enlarged.]
4. The Adder's Tongue Family (_Ophioglossum, Botrychium_) has simple spore
cases without a ring, and discharges its spores through a transverse slit
5. The Filmy Fern Family (_Trichomanes_) has the spore cases along
a bristle-like receptacle and surrounded by an urn-shaped, slightly
two-lipped involucre; ring transverse and opening vertically (Fig. 7).
[Illustration: Fig. 5]
[Illustration: Fig. 6]
[Illustration: Fig. 7]
THE FERN FAMILY PROPER OR REAL FERNS
Green, leafy plants whose spores are borne in spore-cases (sporangia),
which are collected in dots or clusters (fruit-dots or sori) on the back
of the frond or form lines along the edge of its divisions. Sporangia
surrounded by vertical, elastic rings bursting transversely and scattering
the spores. Fruit-dots (sori) often covered, at least when young, by a
membrane called the indusium. Spores brown.
1. POLYPODY. _Polypodium_
(From the Greek meaning many-footed, alluding to the branching rootstocks.)
Simple ferns with stipes articulated to the creeping rootstocks, which are
covered with brown, chaffy scales. Fruit-dots round, naked, arranged on the
back of the frond in one or more rows each side of the midrib. Sporangia
pedicelled, provided with a vertical ring which bursts transversely. A
large genus with about 350 species, widely distributed, mostly in tropical
(1) COMMON POLYPODY. _Polypodium vulgare_
Fronds somewhat leathery in texture, evergreen, four to ten inches tall,
smooth, oblong, and nearly pinnate. The large fruit-dots nearly midway
between the midrib and the margin, but nearer the margin.
[Illustration: Common Polypody. _Polypodium vulgare_]
Common everywhere on cliffs, usually in half shade, and may at times spring
out of decaying logs or the trunks of trees. As the jointed stipes, harking
back to some ancient mode of fern growth, fall away from the rootstocks
after their year of greenness, they leave behind a scar as in Solomon's
seal. The polypody is a gregarious plant. By intertwining its roots the
fronds cling together in "cheerful community," and a friendly eye discovers
their beauty a long way off. August. Abounds in every clime, including
Europe and Japan.
In transplanting, sections should be cut, not pulled from the matted mass.
Var. _cambricum_ has segments broader and more or less strongly toothed.
Var. _cristatum_ has the segments forked at the ends.
Several other forms are also found.
[Illustration: Fruited Frond]
[Illustration: The Common Polypody. _Polypodium vulgare_ (Photographed by
Miles Greenwood, Melrose, Mass.)]
(2) GRAY OR HOARY POLYPODY
_Polypodium incanum. P. polypodioides_
Fronds oblong, two to seven inches long, deeply pinnatifid, gray and scurfy
underneath with peltate scales having a dark center. Fruit-dots rather
small, near the margin and obscured by the chaff.
[Illustration: Gray or Hoary Polypody. _Polypodium incanum_]
In appearance the gray polypody is much like the common species, as the
Greek ending _oides_ (like) implies. In Florida and neighboring states it
often grows on trees; farther north mostly on rocks. Reported as far north
as Staten Island. It is one of the "resurrection" ferns, reviving quickly
by moisture after seeming to be dead from long drouth. July to September.
Widely distributed in tropical America. Often called Tree-Polypody.
THE BRACKEN GROUP
Sporangia near or on the margin of the segments, the reflexed portions of
which serve as indusia.
1. BRACKEN OR BRAKE
_Pteris aquilina_. PTERIDIUM LATIUSCULUM
[Footnote 1: The use of small capitals in the scientific names indicates in
part the newer nomenclature which many botanists are inclined to adopt.]
Fronds broadly triangular, ternate, one to three feet high or more, the
widely spreading branches twice pinnate, the lower pinnules more or less
pinnatifid. Sporangia borne in a continuous line along the lower margin
of the ultimate divisions whose reflexed edges form the indusium. (Greek,
_pteron_, a wing, the feathery fronds suggesting the wings of a bird.)
[Illustration: Common Bracken or Brake, a Sterile Frond. _Pteris aquilina_
(Providence County, R.I.)]
[Illustration: A Fertile Frond of Common Bracken. _Pteris aquilina_
(Suffolk County, Mass.)]
"The heath this night must be my bed,
The bracken curtain for my head."
The outlines of the young bracken resemble the little oak fern. It
flourishes in thickets and open pastures, often with poor soil and scant
shade. It is found in all parts of the world, and is said to be the most
common of all our North American ferns. In a cross section of the mature
stipe superstition sees "the devil's hoof" and "King Charles in the oak,"
and any one may see or think he sees the outlines of an oak tree. It was
the bracken, or eagle fern, as some call it, which was supposed to bear the
mysterious "fern seed," but only on midsummer eve (St. John's eve).
"But on St. John's mysterious night,
Confest the mystic fern seed fell."
This enabled its possessor to walk invisible.
"We have the receipt for fern-seed,
We walk invisible."
The word brake or bracken is one of the many plant names from which some of
our English surnames are derived, as Brack, Breck, Brackenridge, etc.,
and fern (meaning the bracken) is seen in Fern, Fearns, Fernham, Fernel,
Fernside, Farnsworth, etc. Also, in names of places as Ferney, Ferndale,
Fernwood, and others. Although the bracken is coarse and common, it makes a
desirable background for rockeries, or other fern masses. The young ferns
should be transplanted in early spring with as much of the long, running
rootstock as possible.
Var. _pseudocaudata_ has longer, narrower and more distant pinnules, and is
a common southern form.
[Illustration: Var. _pseudocaudata_]
2. MAIDENHAIR. _Adiantum_
Ferns with much divided leaves and short, marginal sori borne at the ends
of free-forking veins, on the under side of the reflexed and altered
portion of the pinnules, which serves as an indusium. Stipes and branches
of the leaves very slender and polished.
(Greek, unwetted, because drops of water roll off without wetting the
(1) COMMON MAIDENHAIR. _Adiantum pedatum_
A graceful fern of shady glen and rocky woodland, nine to eighteen inches
high, the black, shining stalks forked at the top into two equal,
recurved branches, the pinnae all springing from the upper side. Pinnules
triangular-oblong, bearing short sori on their inwardly reflexed margins
which form the indusium.
[Illustration: A Spray of Maidenhair]
[Illustration: Fruiting Pinnae of Maidenhair]
The maidenhair has a superficial resemblance to the meadow rue, which also
sheds water, but it may be known at once by its black, shining stalks with
their divisions all borne on one side. It is indeed a most delicate fern,
known and admired by every one. The term maidenhair may have been suggested
by the black, wiry roots growing from the slender rootstock, or by the
dark, polished stems, or, as Clute explains it, "because the black roots,
like hair, were supposed, according to the 'doctrine of signatures' to be
good for falling hair, and the plant was actually used in the 'syrup of
capillaire'[A] (_Am. Botanist_, November, 1921). While the maidenhair is
not very common, it is widely distributed, being found throughout our
section, westward to California, and northward to the British Provinces.
"Though the maidenhair has a wide range, and grows abundantly in many
localities, it possesses a quality of aloofness which adds to its charm.
Its chosen haunts are dim, moist hollows in the woods, or shaded hillsides
sloping to the river. In such retreats you find the feathery fronds
tremulous on their glistening stalks, and in their neighborhood you find,
also, the very spirit of the woods."
[Footnote A: It may be stated that capillaire syrup besides the use here
indicated was highly esteemed as a pectoral for the relief of difficult
[Illustration: Common Maidenhair. _Adiantum pedatum_ (Reading, Mass.,
[Illustration: Alpine Maidenhair. _Adiantum pedatum_, Var. _aleuticum_
(Fernald and Collins, Gaspe County, Quebec, 1906) (From the Gray
The fern is not hard to cultivate if allowed sufficient moisture and shade.
Along with the ostrich fern it makes a most excellent combination in a fern
Var. ALEUTICUM, or Alpine Maidenhair. A beautiful northern form especially
abundant on the high tableland of the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, where it is
said to cover hundreds of acres. In the east it is often dwarfed--six
to ten inches high, growing in tufts with stout rootstocks, having the
pinnules finely toothed instead of rounded and the indusia often lunate,
rarely twice as long as broad. (Fernald in _Rhodora_, November, 1905.) Also
found in northern Vermont, and to the northwestward.
(2) THE VENUS-HAIR FERN. _Adiantum Capillus-Veneris_
Fronds with a continuous main rachis, ovate-lanceolate, twice pinnate
below. Pinnules, fan-shaped on slender, black stalks, long, deeply and
irregularly incised. Veins extending from the base of the pinnules like the
ribs of a fan.
[Illustration: Venus Hair Fern. _Adiantum Capillus-Veneris_]
While our common maidenhair is a northern fern, the Venus-hair Fern is
confined to the southern states. It is rarely found as far north as
Virginia, where it meets, but scarcely overlaps its sister fern. The
medicinal properties of _Adiantum pedatum_ were earlier ascribed to the
more southern species, which is common in Great Britain, but, like many
another old remedy, "the syrup of capillaire" is long since defunct.
3. CLIFF BRAKES. _Pellaea_
Sporangia borne on the upper part of the free veins inside the margins, in
dot-like masses, but may run together, as in the continuous fruiting line
of the bracken. Indusium formed of the reflexed margins of the fertile
segments which are more or less membranous. (Pellaea, from the Greek
_pellos_, meaning dusky, in allusion to the dark stipes.)
(1) PURPLE CLIFF BRAKE. _Pellaea atropurpurea_
Stipes dark purple or reddish-brown, polished and decidedly hairy and
harsh to the touch, at least on one side. Fronds coriaceous, pale, simply
pinnate, or bipinnate below; the divisions broadly linear or oblong, or
the sterile sometimes oval, chiefly entire, somewhat heart-shaped, or
else truncate at the stalked base. Veins about twice forked. Basal scales
extending into long, slender tips, colorless or yellow.
[Illustration: Purple Cliff Brake. _Pellaea atropurpurea_]
Another name is "the winter brake," as its fronds remain green throughout
the winter, especially in its more southern ranges. It grows on rocky
ledges with a preference for limestone, and often in full sun. In large and
mature fronds its pinnae are apt to be extremely irregular. While its stipes
are purplish, its leaves are bluish-green, and its scales light-brown or
yellow. Strange to say, this brake of the cliffs thrives in cultivation.
Woolson says of it, "This fern is interesting and valuable. It is not only
beautiful in design, but unique in color, a dark blue-green emphasizing
all the varying tints about it--a first-class fern for indoor winter
cultivation. It is a rapid grower, flourishing but a few feet from coal
fire or radiator, in a north or south window. It quickly forgives neglect,
and if allowed to dry up out of doors or indoors, recovers in due time when
put in a moist atmosphere. It makes but one imperative demand, and that is
the privilege of standing still. Overzealous culturists usually like to
turn things around, but revolving cliffs are not in the natural order of
things. The slender black stipes are very susceptible to changes of light
and warped and twisted fronds result."
Dry, calcareous rocks, southern New England and westward. Rare. Var.
_cristata_ has forked pinnae somewhat crowded toward the summit of the
(2) SMOOTH CLIFF BRAKE
_Pellaea glabella. Pellaea atropurpurea_, var. _Bushii_
Naked with a few, scattered, spreading hairs, smooth surface and dark
polished stipes. Rhizome short with membranous, orange or brown scales
having a few bluntish teeth on each edge. Pinnae sub-opposite, divergent,
narrowly oblong, obtuse; base truncate, cordate or clasping, occasionally
auricled; lower pinnae often with orbicular or cordate pinnules. Sterile
pinnae broader, bluish or greenish glaucous above, often crowded to
overlapping. The smooth cliff brake has a decidedly northern range, growing
from northern Vermont to Missouri, and northwestward, but found rarely, if
at all, in southern New England.
[Illustration: Dense Cliff Brake. _Cryptogramma densa_ (From Waters's
"Ferns," Henry Holt & Co.)]
(3) DENSE CLIFF BRAKE
_Cryptogramma densa. Pellaea densa_
Modern botanists are inclined to place the dense cliff brake and the
slender cliff brake under the genus _Cryptogramma_, which is so nearly like
_Pellaea_ that one hesitates to choose between them. The word Cryptogramma
means in Greek a _hidden line_, alluding to the line of sporangia hidden
beneath the reflexed margin.
The dense cliff brake may be described as follows:
Stipes three to nine inches tall, blades one to three inches,
triangular-ovate, pinnate at the summit, and tripinnate below. Segments
linear, sharp-pointed, mostly fertile, having the margins entire and
recurved, giving the sori the appearance of half-open pods. Sterile
fronds sharply serrate. Stipes in dense tufts ("_densa_") slender, wiry,
This rare little fern is a northern species and springs from tiny crevices
in rocks, preferring limestone. Like many other rock-loving species, it
produces spores in abundance, having no other effective means of spreading,
and its fertile fronds are much more numerous than the sterile ones, and
begin to fruit when very small. Gaspe and Mt. Albert in the Province of
Quebec, Grey County, Ontario, and in the far west.
(4) SLENDER CLIFF BRAKE
_Cryptogramma Stelleri. Pellaea gracilis_
Fronds (including stipes) three to six inches long, thin and slender with
few pinnae. The lower pinnae pinnately parted into three to five divisions,
those of the fertile fronds oblong or linear-oblong; those of the sterile,
obovate or ovate, crenulate, decurrent at the base. Confined to limestone
rocks. Quebec and New Brunswick, to Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and
to the northwest.
[Illustration: Slender Cliff Brake. _Cryptogramma Stelleri_]
We have collected this dainty and attractive little fern on the limestone
cliffs of Mt. Horr, near Willoughby Lake, Vt. It grew in a rocky grotto
whose sides were kept moist by dripping water. How we liked to linger near
its charming abode high on the cliff! And we liked also to speak of it by
its pleasing, simple name, "Pellaea gracilis," now changed for scientific
reasons, but we still like the old name better.
(5) THE ROCK BRAKE. PARSLEY FERN
Sterile and fertile fronds very dissimilar; segments of the fertile, linear
and pod-like; of the sterile, ovate-oblong, obtuse, and toothed. The plants
spring from crevices of rocks and are from six to eight inches high. Stipes
of the fertile fronds are about twice as long as the sterile, making two
tiers of fronds.
[Illustration: Parsley Fern or Rock Brake. _Cryptogramma acrostichoides_
(California and Oregon) (Herbarium of Geo. E. Davenport)]
The parsley fern is the typical species of the genus _Cryptogramma_. The
indusium is formed of the altered margin of the pinnule, at first reflexed
to the midrib, giving it a pod-like appearance, but at length opening out
flat and exposing the sporangia. Clute, speaking of this fern as "the rock
brake," calls it a border species, as its home is in the far north--Arctic
America to Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Colorado and California.
4. LIP FERNS. _Cheilanthes_
Mostly small southern ferns growing on rocks, pubescent or tomentose with
much divided leaves. Sori at the end of the veins at first small and
roundish, but afterwards more or less confluent. The indusium whitish and
sometimes herbaceous, formed of the reflexed margin of the lobes or of the
whole pinnule. Veins free, but often obscure. Most of the ferns of this
genus grow in dry, exposed situations, where rain is sometimes absent for
weeks and months. For this reason they protect themselves by a covering
of hairs, scales or wool, which hinders the evaporation of water from the
plant by holding a layer of more or less saturated air near the surface of
the frond. (In Greek the word means _lip flower_, alluding to the lip-like
(1) ALABAMA LIP FERN. _Cheilanthes alabamensis_
Fronds smooth, two to ten inches long, lanceolate, bipinnate. Pinnae
numerous, oblong-lanceolate, the lower usually smaller than those above.
Pinnules triangular-oblong, mostly acute, often auricular or lobed at the
base. Indusia pale, membranous and continuous except between the lobes.
Stipes black, slender and tomentose at the base.
[Illustration: Alabama Lip Fern. _Cheilanthes alabamensis_ (From Waters's
"Ferns," Henry Holt & Co.)]
This species of lip fern may be distinguished from all the others within
our limits by its smooth pinnae. On rocks--mountains of Virginia to
Kentucky, and Alabama, and westward to Arizona.
(2) HAIRY LIP FERN. _Cheilanthes lanosa, C. vestita_
[Illustration: Hairy Lip Fern]
Fronds twice pinnate, lanceolate with oblong, pinnatifid pinnules; seven
to fifteen inches tall, slender and rough with rusty, jointed hairs. Pinnae
triangular-ovate, usually distant, the ends of the rounded lobes reflexed
and forming separate involucres which are pushed back by the ripening
This species like the other lip ferns is fond of rocks, springing from
clefts and ledges. While hairy it is much less tomentose than the two
following species. Unlike most of the rock-loving ferns this species is not
partial to limestone, but grows on other rocks as well. It has been found
as far north as New Haven, Conn., also near New York, and in New Jersey,
Georgia, and westward to Wyoming and southward.
(3) WOOLLY LIP FERN. _Cheilanthes tomentosa_
Fronds eight to eighteen inches long, lanceolate-oblong, tripinnate. Pinnae
and pinnules ovate-oblong, densely woolly especially beneath, with slender,
whitish, obscurely jointed hairs. Of the ultimate segments the terminal
one is twice as long as the others. Pinnules distant, the reflexed, narrow
margin forming a continuous, membranous indusium. Stipe stout, dark brown,
By donning its thick coat of wool this species is prepared to grow in
the most exposed situations of the arid southwest. It is said to be the
"rarest, tallest and handsomest of the lip ferns."
Mountains of Virginia and Kentucky to Georgia, and west to Missouri, Texas
(4) SLENDER LIP FERN
_Cheilanthes Feei, C. lanuginosa_
Stipes densely tufted, slender, at first hairy, dark brown, shining. Fronds
three to eight inches long, ovate-lanceolate, with thickish, distinctly
articulated hairs, twice or thrice pinnate. Pinnae ovate, the lowest
deltoid. Pinnules divided into minute, densely crowded segments, the
herbaceous margin recurved and forming an almost continuous indusium.
[Illustration: Slender Lip Fern]
The slender lip fern, known also as Fee's fern, is much the smallest of the
lip ferns, averaging, Clute tells us, "but two inches high." This is only
one-third as tall as the woolly lip fern and need not be mistaken for it.
The fronds form tangled mats difficult to unravel. It grows on dry rocks
and cliffs--Illinois and Minnesota to British Columbia, and south to Texas,
New Mexico and Arizona.
[Illustration: Pinnae of Slender Lip Fern. _Cheilanthes Feei_ (From Waters's
"Ferns," Henry Holt & Co.)]
5. CLOAK FERN. _Notholaena_
Small ferns with fruit-dots borne beneath the revolute margin of the
pinnules, at first roundish, but soon confluent into a narrow band without
indusium. Veins free. Fronds one to several times pinnate, the lower
surface hairy, or tomentose or powdery. Includes about forty species,
mostly American, but only one within our limits. (Greek name means
_spurious cloak_, alluding to the rudimentary or counterfeit indusium.)
(1) POWDERY CLOAK FERN. _Notholaena dealbata_
Fronds two to six inches long, triangular-ovate, acute, broadest at the
base, tripinnate. Stalks tufted, wiry, shining, dark brown. Upper surface
of the very small segments green, smooth, the lower densely coated with
a pure, white powder; hence, the specific name _dealbata_, which means
whitened. Sori brown at length; veins free.
There are several species of cloak ferns, but only one within our limits.
The dry, white powder which covers them doubtless is designed to protect
them from too rapid evaporation of moisture, as they all inhabit dry and
sunny places. This delicate rock-loving fern is found in the clefts of dry
limestone rocks in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and southwestward.
THE CHAIN FERNS. _Woodwardia_
Large and somewhat coarse ferns of swampy woods with pinnate or nearly
two-pinnate fronds, and oblong or linear fruit-dots, arranged in one or
more chain-like rows, parallel to and near the midribs. Indusium fixed by
its outer margin to a veinlet and opening on the inner side. In our
section there are two species. (Named for Thomas J. Woodward, an English
[Illustration: Powdery Cloak Fern. _Notholaena
dealbata_ (Kansas) (G.E. Davenport)]
[Illustration: The Common Chain Fern.
(1) THE COMMON CHAIN FERN. _Woodwardia virginica_
Sterile and fertile fronds similar in outline, two to four feet high, once
pinnate, the pinnae deeply incised with oblong segments. Fruit-dots oblong
in chain-like rows along the midrib both of the pinnae and the lobes,
confluent when ripe. Veins forming narrow rows of net-like spaces (areoles)
beneath the fruit-dots, thence free to the margin. The spores ripen in
The sterile fronds resemble those of the cinnamon fern, but the latter grow
in crowns, with a single frond in the center, while the fronds of the
chain fern rise singly from the creeping rootstock, which sends them up at
intervals all summer. The sori are borne on the backs of fertile fronds.
There are usually more sterile than fertile blades, especially in dense
shade. We have waded repeatedly through a miry swamp in Melrose, Mass.,
where the wild calla flourishes along with the blueberry and other swamp
bushes, and have found the chain fern in several shaded spots, but every
frond was sterile. It is said that when exposed to the sun it always faces
the south. Swamps, Maine to Florida, especially along the Atlantic Coast,
and often in company with the narrow-leaved species.
[Illustration: Net-Veined Chain Fern. _Woodwardia areolata_ (Stratford,
(2) NET-VEINED CHAIN FERN
NARROW-LEAVED CHAIN FERN
_Woodwardia areolata. W. angustifolia_
Root stocks creeping and chaffy. Sterile and fertile fronds unlike; sterile
ones nine to twelve inches tall, deltoid-ovate. Broadest at the base, with
lanceolate, serrulate divisions united by a broad wing. Veins areolate;
fertile fronds taller, twelve to twenty inches high with narrowly linear
divisions, the areoles and fruit-dots in a single row each side of the
secondary midrib, the latter sunk in the tissues.
This species is less common than the Virginia fern, but they often grow
near each other. We have collected both in the Blue Hill reservation near
Boston, and both have been found in Hingham, Medford, and Reading, and
doubtless in other towns along the coast. Mrs. Parsons speaks of finding
them in the flat, sandy country near Buzzard's Bay. The net-veined species
has some resemblance to the sensitive fern, but in the latter the spore
cases are shut up in small pods formed by the contracting and rolling up of
the lobes, whereas the chain fern bears its sori on the under side of long,
narrow pinnae. Besides, the sterile fronds of the latter have serrulate
segments. As in the sensitive fern there are many curious gradations
between the fertile and sterile fronds, both in shape and fruitfulness.
Waters calls them the "_obtusilobata_ form."
[Illustration: The Spleenworts 1. Narrow-leaved 2. Ebony 3. Rue 4. Scott's
5. Maidenhair 6. Green 7. Mountain]
A. THE ROCK SPLEENWORTS. _Asplenium_
Small, evergreen ferns. Fruit-dots oblong or linear, oblique, separate when
young. Indusium straight or rarely curved, fixed lengthwise on the upper
side of a fertile veinlet, opening toward the midrib. Veins free. Scales of
rhizome and stipes narrow, of firm texture and with thick-walled cells.
(1) PINNATIFID SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium pinnatifidum_
Fronds four to six inches long, lanceolate, pinnatifid or pinnate near the
base, tapering above into a slender prolongation. Lobes roundish-ovate, or
the lower pair acuminate. Fruit-dots irregular, numerous. Stipes tufted,
two to four inches long, brownish beneath, green above.
Although this fern, like all the small spleenworts, is heavily fruited,
it is extremely rare. It is found as far north as Sharon, Conn., thence
southward to Georgia, to Arkansas and Missouri. On cliffs and rocks.
Resembles the walking fern, and its tip sometimes takes root.
(2) SCOTT'S SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium ebenoides_
Fronds four to ten inches long, broadly lanceolate, pinnatifid or pinnate
below, tapering to a prolonged and slender apex. Divisions lanceolate from
a broad base. Fruit-dots straight or slightly curved. Stipe and rachis
[Illustration: Pinnatifid Spleenwort. _Asplenium pinnatifidum_ a, Small
Plants from Harper's Ferry; b, Sori on Young Fronds (From Waters's "Ferns,"
Henry Holt & Co.)]
[Illustration: Scott's Spleenwort. _Asplenium ebenoides_ a, from Virginia;
b, from Alabama; c, from Maryland (From Waters's "Ferns," Henry Holt &
Resembles the last, and like that has been known to root at the tip. It is
a hybrid between the walking fern and the ebony spleenwort, as proved by
Miss Margaret Slosson, and may be looked for in the immediate vicinity of
its parents. It was discovered by R.R. Scott, in 1862, at Manayunk, Pa., a
suburb of Philadelphia, and described by him in the Gardener's Monthly of
September, 1865. Vermont to Alabama, Missouri, and southward. Rare, but
said to be plentiful in a deep ravine near Havana, Ala.
[Illustration: Green Spleenwort. _Asplenium viride_]
(3) GREEN SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium viride_
Fronds two to ten inches long, linear, pinnate, pale green. Pinnae
roundish-ovate, crenate, with indistinct and forking midveins. Stalks
tufted, short, brownish below, green above. Rachis green.
Discovered at Smuggler's Notch, Mt. Mansfield, Vt., by C.G. Pringle in
1876. Found sparingly at Willoughby Lake, high on the cliffs of Mt. Horr.
This rare and delicate little plant bears a rather close resemblance to the
maidenhair spleenwort, which, however, has dark stipes instead of green.
Northern New England, west and northwest on shaded limestone rocks.
[Illustration: Maidenhair Spleenwort. _Asplenium Trichomanes_]
(4) MAIDENHAIR SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium Trichomanes_
Stipes densely tufted, purple-brown, shining. Fronds three to eight inches
long, linear, dark green, rather rigid. Pinnae roundish-oblong or oval,
entire or finely crenate, attached at the base by a narrow point. Midveins
forking and evanescent.
Not very common, but distributed almost throughout North America. May be
looked for wherever there are ledges, as it does not require limestone.
[Illustration: Maidenhair Spleenwort. _Asplenium Trichomanes_ (From
Woolson's "Ferns," Doubleday, Page & Co.)]
(5) SMALL SPLEENWORT
_Asplenium parvulum. A. resiliens_
Fronds four to ten inches tall, narrowly linear, rather firm, erect. Pinnae
opposite, oblong, entire or finely crenate, and auricled at the base.
Stipes and rachis black and shining. Midveins continuous.
This small fern is a southern species half way between the maidenhair and
ebony spleenworts, but rather more like the latter from which it differs in
being smaller and thicker, and in having the fertile and sterile fronds of
the same size. Mountains of Virginia to Kansas and southward.
(6) EBONY SPLEENWORT
_Asplenium platyneuron. A. ebeneum_
Fronds upright, eight to eighteen inches high, linear-lanceolate, the
fertile ones much taller, and pinnate. Pinnae scarcely an inch long, the
lower ones very much shorter, alternate, spreading, finely serrate or
incised, the base auricled. Sori numerous, rather near the midvein, stipe
and rachis lustrous brown. ("Ebony.")
This rigidly upright but graceful fern flourishes in rocky, open woods, and
on rich, moist banks, often in the neighborhood of red cedars. Having come
upon it many times in our rambles, we should say it was not uncommon.
A lightly incised form of the pinnae has been described as var. _serratum_.
A handsome form discovered in Vermont in 1900 by Mrs. Horton and named
_Hortonae_ (also called _incisum_) has plume-like fronds with the pinnae cut
into oblique lobes, which are coarsely serrate.
[Illustration: Ebony Spleenwort. _Asplenium platyneuron_ (Melrose, Mass.,
[Illustration: Bradley's Spleenwort. _Asplenium Bradleyi_ a, from Maryland;
b, from Kentucky (From Waters's "Ferns," Henry Holt & Co.)]
(7) BRADLEY'S SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium Bradleyi_
Fronds oblong-lanceolate, pinnate, three to ten inches long. Pinnae
oblong-ovate, obtuse, incised or pinnatifid into oblong, toothed lobes.
The basal pinnae have broad bases, and blunt tips and are slightly stalked.
Stipes and rachis dark brown and the sori short, near the midrib.
A rare and beautiful fern growing on rocks preferring limestone and
confined mostly to the southern states. Newburg, N.Y., to Kentucky and
Alabama, westward to Arkansas.
(8) MOUNTAIN SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium montanum_
Fronds ovate-lanceolate from a broad base, two to eight inches long,
somewhat leathery, pinnate. Pinnae ovate-oblong, the lowest pinnately cleft
into oblong or ovate cut-toothed lobes, the upper ones less and less
divided. Rachis green, broad, and flat.
[Illustration: Mountain Spleenwort (From the "Fern Bulletin")]
Small evergreen ferns of a bluish-green color, growing in the crevices of
rocks and cliffs. Connecticut to Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas and southwest.
July. Rare. Williams, in his "Ferns of Kentucky," says of this species,
"Common on all sandstone cliffs and specimens are large on sheltered rocks
by the banks of streams."
(9) RUE SPLEENWORT. _Asplenium Ruta-muraria_
Fronds evergreen, small, two to seven inches long, deltoid-ovate, two to
three pinnate below, simply pinnate above, rather leathery in texture.
Divisions few, stalked, from cuneate to roundish-ovate, toothed or incised
at the apex. Veins forking. Rachis and stipe green. Sori few, soon
[Illustration: The Rue Spleenwort. _A. Ruta-muraria_ (Top, Lake
Huron--Lower Left, Mt. Toby, Mass.--Lower Right, Vermont) (From Herbarium
of Geo. E. Davenport)]
This tiny fern grows from small fissures in the limestone cliffs, and
is rather rare in this country; but in Great Britain it is very common,
growing everywhere on walls and ruins. From Mt. Toby, Mass., and Willoughby
Mountain, Vt., to Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky and southward.
B. THE LARGE SPLEENWORTS. _Athyrium_
The following species, which are often two to three feet high and grow in
rich soil, are quite different in appearance and habits from the small rock
spleenworts just described. Some botanists have kept them in the genus
_Asplenium_ because their sori are usually rather straight or only slightly
curved, but others are inclined to follow the practice of the British
botanists and put them into a separate group under _Athyrium_. Nearly all
agree that the lady fern, with its variously curved sori, should be placed
here, and many others would place the silvery spleenwort in the same genus,
partly because of its frequently doubled sori. In regard to the last member
of the group, the narrow-leaved spleenwort, there is more doubt. The sori
taken separately would place it with the _Aspleniums_, but considering its
size, structure, habits of growth and all, it seems more closely allied to
the two larger ferns than to the little rock species. We shall group the
three together as the large spleenworts, or for the sake of being more
definite adopt Clute's felicitous phrase.
THE LADY FERN AND ITS KIN
1. THE LADY FERNS
Fronds one to three feet high, broadly lanceolate, or ovate-oblong,
tapering towards the apex, bipinnate. Pinnae lanceolate, numerous. Pinnules
oblong-lanceolate, cut-toothed or incised. Fruit-dots short, variously
curved. Indusium delicate, often reniform, or shaped like a horseshoe, in
some forms confluent at maturity.
Widely distributed, common and varying greatly in outline. The newer
nomenclature separates the lady fern of our section into two distinct
species, which should be carefully studied.[A]
[Footnote A: See monograph by F.K. Butters in _Rhodora_ of September,
(1) THE UPLAND LADY FERN. ATHYRIUM ANGUSTUM
The rootstock or rhizome of the Upland Lady Fern here pictured shows how
the thick, fleshy bases of the old fronds conceal the rootstock itself. In
the Lowland Lady Fern the rootstock is but slightly concealed by old stipe
bases, and so may be distinguished from its sister fern.
One design of such rootstocks is to store up food (mostly starch), during
the summer to nourish the young plants as they shoot forth the next spring.
The undecayed bases of the old stipes are also packed with starch for the
[Illustration: Rootstock of the Upland Lady Fern]
[Illustration: The same split lengthwise (From Waters's "Ferns," Henry Holt
[Illustration: Sori of Lady Fern. _Athyrium angustum_]
Rootstocks horizontal, quite concealed by the thick, fleshy bases of old
fronds. Scales of the long, tufted stipes dark brown. Indusium curved,
often horseshoe-shaped, usually toothed or fringed with fine hairs, but
without glands. Fronds bipinnate, one to three feet high, widest near the
This is the common species of northern New England and the Canadian
Provinces. The fronds differ very widely in form and a great many varieties
have been pointed out, but the fern student, having first learned to
identify the species, will gradually master the few leading varieties as he
Those growing in warm, sunny places where the fruit-dots when mature
incline to cover the whole back of the frond are called "sun forms." These
are varieties TYPICUM and ELATIUS, both with the pinnae obliquely ascending
(including variety _angustum_ of D.C. Eaton), but the latter has broader
fronds with the pinnules of the sterile fronds oblong-lanceolate, somewhat
acute and strongly toothed or pinnatifid.
[Illustration: Varieties of Lady Fern Left to right--1st and 2nd, Var.
_typicum; 3d, elatius; 4th, rubellum; 5th, uncertain, perhaps confertum_]
Var. RUBELLUM has the sori distinct even when mature; its pinnules stand
at a wide angle from the rachis of the pinna and are strongly toothed
or pinnatifid with obtuse teeth. This variety favors regions with cool
summers, or dense shade in warmer regions. The term RUBELLUM alludes to
the reddish stems so often seen but this sign alone may not determine the
variety. It occurs throughout the range of the species, being a common
New England fern. Fernald remarks that this is also a common form of the
species in southern Nova Scotia.
Among other varieties named by Butters are CONFERTUM, having the pinnules
irregularly lobed and toothed; joined by a membranous wing, the lobes of
the pinnules broad and overlapping, giving the fern a compact appearance;
LACINIATUM with pinnules very irregular in size and shape, with many long,
acute teeth, which project in various directions. "An abnormal form which
looks as if it had been nibbled when young."
These varieties are represented in the Gray Herbarium.
(2) THE LOWLAND LADY FERN
Rootstocks creeping, not densely covered with the persistent bases of the
fronds. Stipes about as long as the blade. Scales of the stipe very few,
seldom persistent, rarely over 3-16 of an inch long. Fronds narrowly
deltoid, lanceolate, widest near the base, the second pair of pinnae
commonly longest. Indusia ciliate, the cilia (hairs) ending in glands.
Spores dark, netted or wrinkled.
[Illustration: Lowland Lady Fern. ATHYRIUM ASPLENIOIDES (From the Gray
The following two forms are named by Butters:
F. TYPICUM. The usual form frequent in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, and Missouri.
F. SUBTRIPINNATUM. An unusually large and rare form with triangular,
lanceolate, and pinnatifid pinnules, having blunt, oblong segments. Wet
situations in half shade. Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Our lowland or southern lady fern flourishes in the southern states, comes
up the Atlantic Coast until it meets the upland or northern species in
Pennsylvania and southern New England, and their identification can hardly
fail to awaken in the student a keen interest.
Our American botanists are inclined to think that the real _Athyrium
filix-femina_ is not to be found in the northeastern United States, but
is rather a western species, with its habitat in California and the Rocky
Mountain region and identical with _Athyrium cyclosorum_.
But whatever changes may occur in the scientific name of the old _Athyrium
filix-femina_, the name lady fern will not change, but everywhere within
our limits it will hold its own as a familiar term.
Underwood, writing of the lady fern under the genus _Asplenium_, mentions
the form "_exile_, small, starved specimens growing in very dry situations
and often fruiting when only a few inches high." He also mentions Eaton's
"_angustum_," and alludes to the "Remaining sixty-three varieties equally
unimportant that have been described of this species."
The lady fern is common in moist woods, by walls and roadsides, and at its
best is a truly handsome species, although, like Mrs. Parsons, we have
noticed that in the late summer it loses much of its delicacy. "Many of
its forms become disfigured and present a rather blotched and coarse
appearance." The lady fern has inspired several poems, which have been
quoted more or less fully in the fern books. The following lines are from
the pen of Calder Campbell:
"But not by burne in wood or dale
Grows anything so fair
As the palmy crest of emerald pale
Of the lady fern when the sunbeams turn
To gold her delicate hair."
Referring, perhaps, to the fair colors of the unfolding crosiers revealing
stipes of a clear wine color in striking contrast with the delicate green
of the foliage.
In identifying this fern the novice should bear in mind the tendency of the
curved sori of youth to become straightened and even confluent with age,
although such changes are rather unreliable. Possibly the suggestion of the
poetic Davenport may be helpful to some that there is "An indefinable charm
about the various forms of the lady fern, which soon enables one to know it
from its peculiarly graceful motion by merely gently swaying a frond in the
hand." Spores ripen in August.
The lady fern is very easy to cultivate and when once established is apt to
crowd aside its neighbors.
(3) SILVERY SPLEENWORT. ATHYRIUM ACROSTICHOIDES
_Asplenium acrostichoides. Asplenium thelypteroides_
Fronds two to four feet tall, pinnate, tapering both ways from the middle.
Pinnae deeply pinnatifid, linear-lanceolate, acuminate. Lobes oblong,
obtuse, minutely toothed, each bearing two rows of oblong or linear
fruit-dots. Indusium silvery when young.
[Illustration: Silvery Spleenwort. _Athyrium acrostichoides_]
[Illustration: Silvery Spleenwort. Athyrium acrostichoides]
The sterile fronds come up first and the taller, fertile ones do not appear
until late in June. Where there are no fruit-dots the hairs on the upper
surface of the fronds will help to distinguish it from specimens of the
Marsh fern tribe, which it somewhat resembles. The regular rows of nearly
straight, clear-cut sori of the fertile fronds are very attractive, and
the lower ones, as well as those at the slender tips of the pinnae, are
Rich woods and moist, shady banks, New England to Kentucky and westward.
Generally distributed but hardly common.
(4) NARROW-LEAVED SPLEENWORT
ATHYRIUM ANGUSTIFOLIUM. _Asplenium angustifolium_
Fronds one to four feet tall, pinnate. Pinnae numerous, thin, short-stalked,
linear-lanceolate, acuminate, those of the fertile fronds narrower.
Fruit-dots linear. Indusium slightly convex.
[Illustration: Narrow-leaved Spleenwort. _Athyrium angustifolium_ (Vermont)
(Geo. E. Davenport)]
In rich woods from southern Canada and New Hampshire to Minnesota and
southward. September. Not common. Mt. Toby, Mass., Berlin and Meriden,
Conn., and Danville, Vt. Can be cultivated but should not be exposed to
severe weather, as its thin and delicate fronds are easily injured. Woolson
writes of it, "There is nothing in the fern kingdom which looks so cool and
refreshing on a hot day as a mass of this clear-cut, delicately made-up
[Illustration: Pinnae and Sori of _Athyrium angustifolium_]
Sori linear, a row on either side of the midvein, and at right angles to
it, the indusium appearing to be double. (_Scolopendrium_ is the Greek for
centipede, whose feet the sori were thought to resemble. _Phyllitis_ is the
ancient Greek name for a fern.) Only one species in the United States.
[Illustration: Sori of _Scolopendrium vulgare_]
(1) _Scolopendrium vulgare_
Fronds thick and leathery, oblong-lanceolate from an auricled, heart-shaped
base, ten to twenty inches long and one to two inches wide. Margin entire,
In shaded ravines under limestone cliffs. Chittenango Falls, and
Scolopendrium Lake, central New York, and Tennessee. Also, locally in
Ontario and New Brunswick. One of the rarest of our native ferns, although
very common in Great Britain. This plant is said to be easily cultivated,
and to produce numerous varieties. According to Woolson, "No rockery is
complete without the Hart's Tongue, the long, glossy, undulating fronds
of which are sufficiently unique to distinguish any collection." In
cultivation it "needs light protection through the winter in northern New
[Illustration: Hart's Tongue. _Scolopendrium vulgare_ (Base of calcareous
rocks, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada)]
WALKING FERN. WALKING LEAF
Fruit-dots oblong or linear as in _Asplenium_, but irregularly scattered on
either side of the reticulated veins of the simple frond, the outer ones
sometimes confluent at their ends, forming crooked lines (hence, the name
from the Greek meaning crooked sori). Only one species within our limits.
Fronds evergreen, leathery, four to eighteen inches long, heart-shaped at
the base, but tapering towards the apex, which often roots and forms a
new plant. Veins reticulated. The auricles of this species are sometimes
elongated and may even take root.
This curious and interesting fern is one of the finest for rockeries, the
tips taking root in rock-fissures. Shaded limestone, or sometimes other
rocks. Shapleigh and Winthrop, Me., rarely in New Hampshire (Lebanon),
and Connecticut, Mt. Toby, Mass., and western New England; also Canada to
Georgia and westward.
[Illustration: Walking Fern. _Camptosorus rhizophyllus_]
THE SHIELD FERNS
THE CHRISTMAS AND HOLLY FERNS
These have been grouped with the wood ferns, but are now usually placed
under the genus _Polystichum_, which has the sori round and covered with
a circular indusium fixed to the frond by its depressed center. The wood
ferns, on the other hand, have a kidney-shaped indusium attached to the
fronds by the sinus. (_Polystichum_ is the Greek for many rows, the sori of
some species being in many ranks.)
(1) THE CHRISTMAS FERN
_Polystichum acrostichoides. Aspidium acrostichoides_
Stipes clothed with pale, brown scales. Frond rigid and evergreen, one to
two feet long, lanceolate, pinnate. Pinnae linear-lanceolate, scythe-shaped,
auricled on the upper side, and with bristly teeth; fertile pinnae
contracted toward the top, bearing two rows of sori, which soon become
confluent and cover the entire surface. Indusium orbicular, fixed by its
_F. incisum_ is a form in which the pinnae are much incised.
_F. crispum_ has the edges of its pinnae crisped and ruffled. The name
Christmas fern, due to John Robinson, of Salem, Mass., suggests its fitness
for winter decoration. Its deep green and glossy fronds insure it a welcome
at Christmas time. "Its mission is to cheer the winter months and enhance
the beauty of the other ferns by contrast." In transplanting, a generous
mass of earth should be included and its roots should not be disturbed.
[Illustration: Christmas Fern. _Polystichum acrostichoides_]
[Illustration: Christmas Fern. _Polystichum acrostichoides_]
[Illustration: Christmas Fern. _Polystichum acrostichoides_ Top, Forked
Form; Bottom, Incised Form (Maine)]
(2) BRAUN'S HOLLY FERN
_Polystichum Braunii. Aspidium aculeatum Braunii_
Fronds thick, rigid, one to two feet long, spreading, lanceolate,
tapering both ways, bipinnate. Pinnules ovate or oblong, truncate, nearly
rectangular at the base, sharply toothed and covered beneath with chaff and
hairs. Fruit-dots small and near the mid veins. Indusium orbicular, entire.
Stipes chaffy with brown scales.
[Illustration: Braun's Holly Fern. _Polystichum Braunii_ (Willoughby
Mountain, Vt.) (Herbarium of G.H.T.)]
This handsome fern is rather common in northern New England. We have
collected it in the Willoughby Lake region, Vt., and it is found at Mt.
Mansfield, Randolph, and elsewhere in that state; also at Gorham, N.H.,
and Fernald reports it as common in northern Maine. It also grows in the
mountains of New York and Pennsylvania, and westward. It was formerly
thought to be a variety of the prickly shield fern (_P. aculeatum_), which
has a very wide range and numerous varieties. The fronds remain green
through the winter but the stipes weaken and fall over.
(3) HOLLY FERN. _Polystichum Lonchitis_
Fronds linear-lanceolate, short-stalked and rigid, eight to fifteen inches
long. Pinnae broadly lanceolate-falcate or the lowest triangular, strongly
auricled on the upper side, densely spinulose-toothed. Sori midway between
the margin and midrib.
[Illustration: Holly Fern. Polystichum Lonchitis (Nottawasaga, Canada,
West, Right, Alaska, Left) (Herbarium of C.E. Davenport)]
The name holly fern suggests its resemblance to holly leaves with their
bristle-tipped teeth. The specific name lonchitis (like a spear) refers to
its sharp teeth. A northern species growing in rocky woods from Labrador
to Alaska, and south to Niagara Falls, Lake Superior and westward. Its
southern limits nearly coincide with the northern limits of the Christmas
THE MARSH FERN TRIBE
Under this designation Clute has grouped three of the shield ferns, which
have a close family resemblance, and has thus distinguished them from the
wood ferns, which also belong to the shield fern family.
(1) THE MARSH FERN
_Aspidium thelypteris_. THELYPTERIS PALUSTRIS
_Dryopteris thelypteris. Nephrodium thelypteris_
[Illustration: The Marsh Fern]
These are all good names and each one is worthy to be chosen. _Aspidium_,
Greek for shield, in use for a century, adopted in all the seven editions
of Gray's Manual, is still the most familiar and pleasing term to its
friends. _Dryopteris_, Greek for oak fern, has been chosen by Underwood
and Britton and Brown and has grown in favor. _Nephrodium_, meaning
kidney-like, favored by Davenport, Waters and, of late, Clute, is a most
fitting name. THELYPTERIS, meaning lady fern, is found to be the earliest
name in use and according to rule the correct one.
[Illustration: The Marsh Fern. _Aspidium Thelypteris_]
Fronds pinnate, lanceolate, slightly or not at all narrowed at the base.
Pinnae horizontal or slightly recurved, linear-lanceolate and deeply
pinnatifid. Lobes obtuse, but appear acute when their margins are reflexed
over the sori. Veins once forked. Indusium minute. Stipes tall, lifting the
blades ten to fifteen inches above the mud, whence they spring.
The fronds of the marsh fern are apt to be sterile in deep shade. It may be
readily distinguished from the New York fern by its broad base, instead of
tapering to very small pinnae; by its long stalk, lifting the blade up into
the sunlight, and by the revolute margins of the fertile fronds, which have
suggested for it the name of "snuff-box" fern. It is separated from
the Massachusetts fern by its forked veins. Common in marshes and damp
woodlands; Canada to Florida and westward. While the marsh fern loves
moisture and shade it is sometimes found in dry, open fields. Miss Lilian
A. Cole, of Union, Me., reports a colony as growing on land above the swale
in which Twayblade and Adder's Tongue are found, "around rock heaps in
open sunlight on clay soil, but homely and twisted," as if a former woodsy
environment had been long since cleared away while the deserted ferns
(2) MASSACHUSETTS FERN
_Aspidium simulatum_. THELYPTERIS SIMULATA
_Dryopteris simulata. Nephrodium simulatum_
Fronds pinnate, one to three feet long, oblong-lanceolate, somewhat
narrowed at the base. Pinnae lanceolate, deeply pinnatifid, the lower most
often turned inward. Veins simple. Indusium glandular. Sori rather large.
Resembles the marsh fern, of which it was once thought to be a variety.
In some respects it is also like the New York fern, and is in fact
intermediate between the two.
[Illustration: Massachusetts Fern. _Aspidium simulatum_ 1. Sterile Frond.
2. A Fruiting Pinnule. 3. Pinnule enlarged showing venation (From the "Fern
That it is a distinct species was first pointed out by Raynal Dodge in
1880, and it later was named _simulatum_ by Geo. E. Davenport because of
its similarity to a form of the lady fern. It may be identified by its
thin texture and particularly by its simple veins. On account of its close
resemblance to the marsh fern, Clute would call it "The lance-leaved Marsh
Fern," instead of the irrelevant name of Massachusetts Fern. Woodland
swamps usually in deep shade, New England to Maryland and westward. Often
found growing with the marsh fern.
(3) NEW YORK FERN
_Aspidium noveboracense_. THELYPTERIS NOVEBORACENSIS
_Dryopteris noveboracensis. Nephrodium noveboracense_
Fronds pinnate, tapering both ways from the middle. Pinnae lanceolate,
pinnatifid, the lowest pairs gradually shorter and deflexed. Veins simple.
Indusium minute and beset with glands.
[Illustration: New York Fern. _Aspidium noveboracense_]
Very common in woodlands, preferring a dryer soil than the marsh fern.
August. The fronds are pale green, delicate and hairy beneath along the
midrib and veins.
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