How to Know the Ferns (7th ed)/Group VI
FERTILE AND STERILE FRONDS LEAF-LIKE AND USUALLY SIMILAR, FRUIT-DOTS ROUND
37. NEW YORK FERN
Aspidium Noveboracense (Dryopteris Noveboracensis)
Newfoundland to South Carolina, in woods and open meadows. One to more than two feet high, with stalks shorter than the fronds.
Fronds.—Lance-shaped, tapering both ways from the middle pinnate; pinnæ lance-shaped, the lowest pairs shorter and deflexed, divided into flat, oblong lobes which are not reflexed over the fruit-dots; fruit-dots round, distinct, near the margin; indusium minute.
At times the pale-green fronds of the New York Fern throng to the roadside, which is flanked by a tangled thicket of Osmundas, wild roses, and elder bushes.
Again, they stay quietly at home in the open marsh or in the shadow of the hemlocks and cedars, where they have fragrant pyrola and pipsissewa for company, and where the long, melancholy note of the peewee breaks the silence.
This plant is easily distinguished from the Marsh Fern by the noticeable tapering at both ends of its frond, and by the flat instead of reflexed margins to the lobes of the fertile pinnæ.
38. MARSH FERN
Aspidium Thelypteris (Dryopteris Thelypteris)
New Brunswick to Florida, in wet woods and swamps. One to nearly three feet high.
Fronds.—Lance-shaped, slightly downy, once-pinnate, fertile fronds longer-stalked than the sterile; pinnæ, the lower ones hardly smaller than the others, cut into oblong, entire lobes, which are obtuse in the sterile fronds, but appear acute in the fertile ones from the strongly revolute margins; veins once or twice forked; fruit-dots small, round, half-way between midvein and margin, or nearer margin, soon confluent; indusium small.
The plant's range is wide. As I pick my way through marshy inland woods, using as bridges the fallen trunks and interlacing roots of trees, its bright fronds standing nearly three feet high, crowd about me. Close by, securing, like myself, a firmer foothold by the aid of the trees' roots, I notice the flat,
In our wet woods and open swamps, and occasionally in dry pastures, the erect, fresh-green fronds of the Marsh Fern grow abundantly. The lowest pinnæ are set so high on the long slender stem as to give the fern the appearance of trying to keep dry, daintily holding its skirts out of the mud as it were.
mottled green and white rosettes and the slender wands of flowers of the rattlesnake orchid. In the open swamps beyond the fern's companion is another orchid, the ladies' tresses, with braided spikes of white, and in this case deliciously fragrant flowers.
In open marshes near the sea I find this plant associating itself with the violet-scented adder's mouth, with glistening sundew, and with gaudy Turk's-cap lilies.
From the New York Fern it may be distinguished easily by the somewhat abrupt
|Fertile frond||Sterile frond|
instead of tapering base of the frond, by the strongly revolute margins of the fertile frond, and by its long stalk.
From the Massachusetts Fern it may be distinguished by its forked veins, the less revolute margins of the fertile frond, and by its thicker texture and deeper green.
39. MASSACHUSETTS FERN
Aspidium simulatum (Dryopteris simulata)
New Hampshire to the Indian Territory, in wooded swamps. One to more than three feet high.
Fronds.—Oblong-lance-shaped, little or not at all narrowed at the base, rather thin, pinnate; pinnæ lance-shaped, cut into oblong, obtuse segments, which are slightly reflexed in the fertile fronds, veins not forked; fruit-dots rather large, somewhat distant; indusium "withering-persistent."
This species closely resembles the Marsh Fern. The less revolute margins of the fertile frond, the simple veins, its thinner texture, and its more distant fruit-dots aid in its identification. It is found in woodland swamps from New Hampshire to the Indian Territory.
SPINULOSE WOOD FERN
Aspidium spinulosum, var. intermedium
a Portion of fertile pinnule
40. SPINULOSE WOOD FERN
Aspidium spinulosum (Dryopteris spinulosa)
Newfoundland to Kentucky. The common European type, rare in North America. One to two and a half feet high, with stalks having a few pale-brown deciduous scales.
Fronds.—Lance-ovate, twice-pinnate; pinnæ oblique to the rachis, elongated-triangular, the lower ones broadly triangular; pinnules oblique to the midrib, connected by a narrow wing, cut into thorny-toothed segments; fruit-dots round; indusium smooth, without marginal glands, soon withering.
To my knowledge I have only seen this fern in the herbarium, it being rare in this country. It is found, I have been told, chiefly toward the tops of mountains. Its pinnæ are noticeably ascending.
Var. intermedium (D. spinulosa intermedia)
Labrador to North Carolina, in woods almost everywhere. Usually large, with somewhat chaffy stalks, having brown, dark-centred scales.
Fronds.—Oblong-ovate, 2-3 pinnate; pinnæ oblong-lance-shaped, spreading, rather distant, the lowest unequally triangular, the pinnules on the lower side longer than those on the upper side; pinnules ovate-oblong, spreading, with oblong lobes thorny-toothed at the apex; fruit-dots round; indusium delicate, beset with tiny stalked glands.
The plant varies greatly in height, breadth, and
This is the form of the species that abounds in our woods. Perhaps no one plant does more for their beauty than this stately fern, whose rich-green, outward-curving fronds spring in circles from fallen trees and decaying stumps as well as from the ground.
BOOTT'S SHIELD FERN
a Tip of fertile pinna
way of holding itself. Sometimes the fronds stand three feet high, and are broad and spreading. Again, they are tall, slender, and somewhat erect. Again, they are not more than a foot high.
At its best it grows with almost tropical luxuriance and is a plant of rare beauty, its fronds having a certain featheriness of aspect uncommon in the Aspidiums.
Var. dilatatum (D. spinulosa dilatata)
Newfoundland to North Carolina, chiefly in the mountains.
Fronds.—Usually large, broader at base than in either of the preceding species, ovate or triangular-ovate, oftenest thrice-pinnate; pinnules lance-oblong, the lowest often much elongated; fruit-dots round; indusium smooth.
This form of the Spinulose Wood Fern is distinguished chiefly by its broader fronds and by the smooth indusia. As these indusia can be seen satisfactorily only by the aid of a magnifying-glass, there is frequently some difficulty in distinguishing this variety. Occasionally it occurs in a dwarf state, fruiting when only a few inches high.
41. BOOTT'S SHIELD FERN
Aspidium Boottii (Dryopteris Boottii)
Nova Scotia to Maryland, about ponds and in wet places. One and a half to more than three feet high, with somewhat chaffy stalks which have pale-brown scales.
Fronds.—Long lance-shaped, somewhat narrowed at base, nearly or quite twice-pinnate; pinnæ, the lowest triangular-ovate, upper longer and narrower; pinnules oblong-ovate, sharply thorny-toothed, somewhat pinnatifid below; fruit-dots round; indusium slightly glandular.
CRESTED SHIELD FERN
|a A pinna||b Portion of fertile pinna|
Boott's Shield Fern is found in moist woods and near ponds. It is distinguished by its long, narrow fronds and minutely glandular indusium.
42. CRESTED SHIELD FERN
Aspidium cristatum (Dryopteris cristata)
Newfoundland to Kentucky, in swamps. One to more than three feet high, with stalks which are chaffy, especially below, and which have light-brown scales, stalks of sterile fronds much shorter than those of fertile fronds.
Fronds.—Linear-oblong or lance-shaped, nearly twice-pinnate, fertile ones taller and longer stalked than the sterile; pinnæ (of the fertile frond, turning their faces toward the apex of the frond) rather short, lance-shaped or triangular-oblong, deeply impressed with veins, cut deeply into oblong, obtuse, finely toothed divisions; fruit-dots large, round, half-way between midvein and margin; indusium large, flat.
In wet woods, growing either from the ground or from the trunks of fallen trees, and also in open meadows, we notice the tall, slender, dark-green, somewhat lustrous fronds of the Crested Shield Fern, usually distinguished easily from its kinsmen by the noticeably upward-turning pinnæ of the fertile fronds, and by the deep impression made by the veins on their upper surfaces.
The sterile fronds are much shorter than the fertile ones. They are evergreen, lasting through the winter after the fertile fronds have perished.Near the Crested Shield Fern we find often many of its kinsmen, broad, feathery fronds of the Spinulose Wood Fern, more slender ones of Boott's Shield
Part of CLINTON'S WOOD FERN
a Portion of fertile pinna
Fern, great tufts made by the magnificent bright-green fronds of Goldie's Fern, symmetrical circles of vigorous Evergreen Wood Fern, and shining clusters of the Christmas Fern. All these plants, belonging to the one tribe, seek the same moist, shaded retreats, and form a group of singular beauty and vigor.
43. CLINTON'S WOOD FERN
Aspidium cristatum, var. Clintonianum (Dryopteris cristata Clintoniana)
Maine to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in swampy woods. Two and a half to four feet high.
Fronds.—Larger in every way than those of the Crested Shield Fern, nearly twice-pinnate; pinnæ broadest at base, cut into from eight to sixteen pairs of linear-oblong, obtuse, obscurely toothed divisions; fruit-dots large, round, near the midvein; indusium orbicular, smooth.
This is a much larger and more showy plant than the Crested Shield Fern. Its tall, broad, hardy-looking fronds are found in our moist woods. While not rare it is exclusive in its habits, and cannot be classed with such every-day finds as its kinsmen, the Marsh, Spinulose, Evergreen, and Christmas Ferns.
Part of fertile frond of Goldie's Fern
a Portion of a fertile pinna
44. GOLDIE'S FERN
Aspidium Goldianum (Dryopteris Goldieana)
New Brunswick to North Carolina and Tennessee, in rich woods. Two to more than four feet high, with stalks which are chaffy near the base.
Fronds.—Broadly ovate, the early sterile ones much broader in proportion and smaller, usually a foot or more wide, once-pinnate; pinnæ pinnatifid; broadest in the middle (the distinction from Clinton's Wood Fern), the divisions, about twenty pairs, oblong-linear, slightly toothed; fruit-dots very near the midvein; indusium very large, orbicular.
In the golden twilight of the deeper woods this stately plant unfurls its tall, broad, bright-green fronds, studded on their backs with the round fruit-dots which are so noticeable in this Aspidium, adding much to their attractiveness by the suggestion of fertility.
This plant ranks with the Osmundas and with the Ostrich Fern in size and vigorous beauty. Its retiring habits give it a reputation for rarity or at least for exclusiveness.
EVERGREEN WOOD FERN
|a Tip of fertile pinna||b Magnified fruit-dot, showing indusium and sporangia|
45. EVERGREEN WOOD FERN. MARGINAL SHIELD FERN
Aspidium marginale (Dryopteris marginalis)
Canada to Alabama, in rocky woods. A few inches to three feet high, with more or less chaffy stalks having shining scales.
Fronds.—Ovate-oblong, smooth, thick, somewhat leathery, once or twice-pinnate; pinnæ lance-shaped or triangular-ovate, tapering at the end, cut into pinnules; pinnules oblong, entire, or toothed; fruit-dots large, round, close to the margin; indusium large, convex, persistent.
Above the black leaf-mould in our rocky northern woods rise the firm, graceful crowns formed by the blue-green fronds of the Evergreen Wood Fern. The plant bears a family likeness to the Crested Shield Fern, but its conspicuously marginal fruit-dots identify it at sight.
It is interesting to read that it comes "nearer being a tree-fern than any other of our species, the caudex covered by the bases of fronds of previous seasons, sometimes resting on bare rocks for four or five inches without roots or fronds" (see Eaton, p. 70). This peculiarity in the plant's growth is often striking and certainly suggests the tree-ferns of the green-house.
Frequently in this species I notice what is more or less common to nearly all ferns, the exquisite contrast in the different shades of green worn by the younger and older fronds and the charming effect produced when the deep green of the centre of a frond shades away in the most delicate manner toward its apex and the tips of its pinnules.
As its English title signifies, the Evergreen Wood Fern flourishes throughout the winter. In one of the October entries in his journal, Thoreau records his satisfaction in the endurance of the hardy ferns:
"Now they are conspicuous amid the withered leaves. You are inclined to approach and raise each frond in succession, moist, trembling, fragile greenness. They linger thus in all moist, clammy swamps under the bare maples and grapevines and witch hazels, and about each trickling spring that is half choked with fallen leaves. What means this persistent vitality? Why were these spared when the brakes and osmundas were stricken down? They stay as if to keep up the spirits of the cold-blooded frogs which have not yet gone into the mud, that the summer may die with decent and graceful moderation. Is not the water of the spring improved by their presence? They fall back and droop here and there like the plumes of departing summer, of the departing year. Even in them I feel an argument for immortality. Death is so far from being universal. The same destroyer does not destroy all. How valuable they are, with the lycopodiums, for cheerfulness. Greenness at the end of the year, after the fall of the leaf, a hale old age. To my eye they are tall and noble as palm-groves, and always some forest nobleness seems to have its haunt under their umbrage. All that was immortal in the swamp herbage seems here crowded into smaller compass, the concentrated greenness of the swamp. How dear they must be to the chickadee and the rabbit! the cool, slowly retreating rear-guard of the swamp army."
46. FRAGRANT SHIELD FERN
Aspidium fragrans (Dryopteris fragrans)
Northern New England to Wisconsin and northward, on rocks. Five to sixteen inches long, with very chaffy stalks having brown, glossy scales.
Fronds.—Lance-shaped, tapering to a point, nearly twice-pinnate, fragrant; pinnæ oblong-lanceolate, pinnatifid; fruit-dots round, large; indusium large and thin.
The Fragrant Shield Fern thrives in a colder climate than that chosen by many of its kinsmen. Though found in the White Mountains, in the Green Mountains (where it climbs to an elevation of four thousand feet), in the Adirondacks, and in other special localities of about the same latitude, yet it is rare till we journey farther north. It loves the crevices of shaded cliffs or mossy rocks, often thriving best in the neighborhood of rushing brooks and waterfalls. Frequently it seems to seek the most inaccessible spots, as if anxious to evade discovery. Mr. J. A. Bates, of Randolph, Vt., writes that he first saw this little plant through a telescope from the piazza of the Summit House on Mount Mansfield on an apparently inaccessible ledge, the only instance in my experience when the fern student has sought this method of observation, suggesting "Ferns Through a Spy-glass" as a companion volume to "Birds Through an Opera-glass." But even the most carefully chosen spots are not safe from invasion, as Mr. Bates tells us, for some unprincipled persons, having felled neighboring trees and constructed a rude
FRAGRANT SHIELD FERN
a Portion of fertile pinna
ladder, have succeeded in uprooting every plant from the Fragrant Shield Fern Cliff on Mount Mansfield.
The fronds of the Fragrant Shield Fern grow in a crown and the fertile ones fruit in great abundance.
Eaton writes as follows touching the fragrance of this fern and its use as a beverage:
"The pleasant odor of this plant remains many years in the herbarium. The early writers compare the fragrance to that of raspberries, and Milde repeats the observation. Hooker and Greville thought it 'not unlike that of the common primrose.' Maximowicz states that the odor is sometimes lacking. Milde quotes Redowsky as saying that the Yakoots of Siberia use the plant in place of tea; and, having tried the experiment myself, I can testify to the not unpleasant and very fragrant astringency of the infusion."
The following delightful description of the Fragrant Shield Fern was written by Mr. C. G. Pringle, and is taken from Meehan's "Native Flowers and Ferns":
"In the several stations of Aspidium fragrans among the Green Mountains which I have explored, the plant is always seen growing from the crevices or on the narrow shelves of dry cliffs—not often such cliffs as are exposed to the sunlight, unless it be on the summits of the mountains, but usually such cliffs as are shaded by firs, and notably such as overhang mountain-rivulets and waterfalls. When I visit such places in summer, the niches occupied by the plants are quite dry. I think it would be fatal to the plant if much spray should fall on it during the season of its active growth. When you enter the shade and solitude of the haunts of this fern, its presence is betrayed by its resinous odor; looking up the face of the cliff, usually mottled with lichens and moss, you see it often far above your reach hanging against the rock, masses of dead brown fronds, the accumulations of many years, preserved by the resinous principle which pervades them; for the fronds, as they disport regularly about the elongating caudex, fall right and left precisely like a woman's hair. Above the tuft of drooping dead fronds, which radiate from the centre of the plant, grow from six to twenty green fronds, which represent the growth of the season, those of the preceding year dying toward autumn."
47. BRAUN'S HOLLY FERN
Aspidium aculeatum, var. Braunii (Dryopteris Braunii)
Canada to Maine, the mountains of Pennsylvania and westward, in deep rocky woods. One to more than two feet long, with chaffy stalks, having brown scales.
Fronds.—Thick, twice-pinnate; pinnæ lanceolate, tapering both ways; pinnules covered with hairs and scales, truncate, nearly rectangular at the base; fruit-dots roundish, small, mostly near the midveins; indusium orbicular, entire.
This fern is said to have been first discovered by Frederick Pursh in 1807 in Smuggler's Notch, Mount Mansfield, Vt. In the Green Mountains and in the Catskills several stations have been established. It has been found also in the Adirondacks and in Oswego County, N. Y., and it is now reported as common in the rocky woods of northern Maine, and by mountain brooks in northern New England.
Braun's Holly Fern is one of the numerous varieties of the Prickly Shield Fern or A. aculeatum (D. aculeata).
Though few of our fern-students will have an opportunity to follow the Prickly Shield Fern through all the forms it assumes in different parts of the world, yet undoubtedly many of them will have the pleasure of seeing in one of its lonely and lovely haunts our own variety, Braun's Holly Fern.
BRAUN'S HOLLY FERN
a Portion of pinnab Fertile pinnule, indusia gone
48. COMMON POLYPODY. SNAKE FERN
Almost throughout North America, on rocks. A few inches to more than a foot high.
Fronds.—Oblong, smooth, somewhat leathery, cut into narrowly oblong, usually obtuse divisions which almost reach the rachis; fruit-dots large, round, half-way between the midrib and margin; indusium, none.
Strangely enough, the Polypody, one of our most abundant and ubiquitous ferns, is not rightly named, if it is noticed at all, by nine out of ten people who come across it in the woods or along the roadside. Yet the plant has a charm peculiarly its own, a charm arising partly from its vigor, from the freshness of its youth and the endurance of its old age, partly from its odd outlines, and partly from its usual environment, which entitles it to a more ready and universal recognition.
"The cheerful community of the polypody," as Thoreau calls it, thrives best on the flat surfaces of rocks. I recall the base of certain great cliffs where the rocky fragments, looking as though hurled from above by playful giants, are thickly covered with these plants, their rich foliage softening into beauty otherwise rugged outlines. Usually the plant is found in somewhat shaded places. Occasionally it grows on the trunks of trees and on fallen logs, as well as on rocks and cliffs.
A few weeks ago I found its fronds prettily curtaining the cleverly hidden nest of a pair of black and white creepers. It is with good reason that these birds are noted for their skill in concealing their dwelling-place. This special afternoon, when persuaded by their nervous chirps and flutterings about the rocky perch where I was sitting that the young ones were close by, I began an investigation of my precipitous and very slippery surroundings which was not rewarded for an hour or more. Not till I had climbed several feet over the side of the cliff to a narrow shelf below, broken through a thicket of blueberries, and pushed aside the tufts of Polypody which hid the entrance to the dark crevice in the rocks beyond, did I discover the little nest holding the baby creepers.
Thoreau writes of the Polypody with peculiar sympathy:
"It is very pleasant and cheerful nowadays, when the brown and withered leaves strew the ground and almost every plant is fallen withered, to come upon a patch of polypody . . . on some rocky hill-side in the woods, where, in the midst of dry and rustling leaves, defying frost, it stands so freshly green and full of life. The mere greenness, which was not remarkable in the summer, is positively interesting now. My thoughts are with the polypody a long time after my body has passed. . . . Why is not this form copied by our sculptors instead of the foreign acanthus leaves and bays? How fit for a tuft about the base of a column! The sight of this unwithering green leaf excites me like red at some seasons. Are not wood-frogs the philosophers who frequent these groves? Methinks I imbibe a cool, composed, frog-like philosophy when I behold them. The form of the polypody is strangely interesting, it is even outlandish. Some forms, though common in our midst, are thus perennially foreign as the growth of other latitudes. . . . The bare outline of the polypody thrills me strangely. It only perplexes me. Simple as it is, it is as strange as an oriental character. It is quite independent of my race and of the Indian, and of all mankind. It is a fabulous, mythological form, such as prevailed when the earth and air and water were inhabited by those extinct fossil creatures that we find. It is contemporary with them, and affects us somewhat as the sight of them might do."
49. LONG BEECH FERN
Phegopteris polypodioides (P. Phegopteris)
Newfoundland to Alaska, south to mountains of Virginia, wet woods and hill-sides. Six or eight inches to more than a foot high.
Fronds.—Triangular, usually longer than broad (4–9 inches long, 3–6 inches broad), downy, especially beneath, thin, once-pinnate; pinnæ lance-shaped, the lower pair noticeably standing forward and deflexed, cut into oblong, obtuse segments; fruit-dots small, round, near the margin; indusium, none.
Of the three species of Phegopteris native to the northeastern States P. polypodioides, commonly called the Long Beech Fern, is the one I happen to have encountered oftenest.
It is a less delicate plant than either of its sisters, the effect of the larger and older specimens being rather hardy, yet its downy, often light-green, triangular frond is exceedingly pretty, with a certain oddity of aspect which it owes to the lowest pair of pinnæ, these being conspicuously deflexed and turned forward. This peculiarity gives it a decided individuality and renders it easy of identification.
The Long Beech Fern I have found growing
|a Portion of pinna||b Tip of pinna|
alternately in company with the Oak Fern and the Broad Beech Fern. It loves the damp woods, clambering over the roots of trees or carpeting thickly the hollows that lie between.
50. BROAD BEECH FERN. HEXAGON BEECH FERN
Quebec to Florida, in dry woods and on hill-sides, with talks eight to eighteen inches long.
Fronds.—Triangular, as broad or broader than long, seven to twelve inches broad, thin, slightly hairy, often finely glandular beneath, fragrant, once-pinnate; pinnæ, the large, lowest ones broadest near the middle and cut nearly to the midrib into linear-oblong, obtuse segments, the middle ones lance-shaped, tapering, the upper ones oblong, obtuse, toothed or entire; basal segments of the pinnæ forming a continuous, many-angled wing along the main rachis; fruit-dots round, small, near the margin; indusium, none.
In many ways this plant resembles its sister, the Long Beech Fern, but usually it is a larger plant,
BROAD BEECH FERN
with more broadly triangular fronds, which wear, to my mind, a brighter, fresher, more delicate green. In the Long Beech Fern the two lower pairs of pinnæ differ little in length and breadth, while in the Broad Beech Fern the lowest pair are decidedly larger and broader than the next pair. The wing along the rachis formed by the basal segments of the pinnæ seems to me more conspicuous in the latter than in the former.
The range of the Broad Beech Fern extends farther south than does that of its two kinsmen, neither of which are found, I believe, south of Virginia. It seeks also more open and usually drier woods. Its leaves are fragrant.
Williamson says that its fronds are easily decolorized and that they form a "good object for double-staining, a process well known to microscopists."
51. OAK FERN
Northeastern United States to Virginia, west to Oregon and Alaska, usually in wet woods, with stalks six to nine inches long.
Fronds.—Usually longer than broad, four to nine inches long, broadly triangular, the three primary divisions widely spreading, smooth, once or twice-pinnate; fruit-dots small, round, near the margin; indusium, none.
So far as I remember, my first encounter with the Oak Fern was in a cedar swamp, famous for its growth of showy lady's-slippers. One July day in the hope of finding in flower some of these
orchids, I visited this swamp. It lay in a semi-twilight, caused by the dense growth of cedars and hemlocks. Prostrate on the spongy sphagnum below were hosts of uprooted trees, so overrun with trailing strands of partridge-vine, twin-flower, gold-thread, and creeping snowberry, and so soft and yielding to the feet that they seemed to have become one with the earth. The stumps and far-reaching roots of the trees that had been cut or broken off above ground, instead of having been uprooted bodily, had also become gardens of many delicate woodland growths. Some of these decaying stumps and outspreading roots were thickly clothed with the clover-like leaflets of the wood-sorrel, here and there nestling among them a pink-veined blossom. On others I found side by side gleaming wild strawberries and dwarf raspberries, feathery fronds of Maidenhair, tall Osmundas, the Crested and the Spinulose Shield Ferns, the leaves of the violet, foam-flower, mitrewort, and many others of the smaller, wood-loving plants. Among these stumps were pools of water filled with the dark, polished, rounded leaves of the wild calla, and bordered by beds of moss which cushioned the equally shining but long and pointed leaves of the Clintonia. Near one of these pools grew a patch of delicate, low-spreading plants, evidently ferns. It needed only one searching look at the broad, triangular, light-green fronds—suggesting somewhat those of a small Brake—with roundish fruit-dots below to assure me that I had found the Oak Fern.
Every lover of plants or of birds or of any natural objects will appreciate the sense of something more exciting than satisfaction which I experienced as I knelt above the little plantation and gathered a few slender-stemmed fronds. One such find as this compensates for many hours of fatigue and discomfort, or intensifies the enjoyment of an already happy day. The expedition had justified itself with the first full view of the solemn, beautiful depths of the cedar forest. The discovery of the Oak Fern provided a tangible token of what we had accomplished, and when finally we found the tall, leafy plants of the showy lady's-slipper, without a single blossom left upon them, our disappointment was so mild as to be almost imperceptible.
As is often the case, having once discovered the haunt of the Oak Fern, it ceased to be a rarity. It joined the host of plants which climbed over the mossy stumps and fallen logs, and at times it fairly carpeted the ground beneath the cedars and hemlocks.
52. BULBLET BLADDER FERN
Canada to Tennessee, on wet rocks, preferring limestone. One to three feet long, with light-colored, somewhat brittle stalks.
Fronds.—Elongated, lance-shaped from a broad base, often bearing beneath large, fleshy bulbs, usually twice-pinnate; pinnæ lance-oblong, pointed; pinnules toothed or deeply lobed; fruit-dots roundish, indusium short, hood-like, attached by a broad base on the side toward the midrib, early thrown back and withering so that the mature fruit-dots appear arched.
The Bulblet Bladder Fern is never more at home than when it grows close to falling water, clinging to rocks dark and wet with spray. It seems to reflect
BULBLET BLADDER FERN
a Portion of fruiting pinna
the very spirit of the waterfall, all its life and grace, as it springs from the dripping ledges, clothing them with a diaphanous garment of delicate green which vies with their neighboring veil of white, now pouring over some rocky shelf a solid but silent mass of pale luxuriant foliage, now trailing down the cliff its long, tapering fronds, side by side with silvery strands of water, close to tufts of wind-blown, spray-tipped hare-bells.
Although the plant is never seen at its best save in some such neighborhood as this, its slender, feathery fronds are always possessed of singular grace and charm, whether undulating along the dried rocky bed of a mountain brook or bending till their slender tips nearly touch the rushing stream or growing quite away from the rocks which are their natural and usual companions among the moss-grown trunks and fallen trees of the wet woods.
I know no other fern, save the climbing fern, which is so vine-like and clinging. In reality its stalk and midrib are somewhat brittle, yet this brittleness does not prevent its adapting itself with supple and exquisite curves to whatever support it has chosen.In its manner of growth, as well as in its slender, tapering outline, the Bulblet Bladder Fern is so individual that there can be no difficulty in identifying the full-sized fertile fronds, even in the absence of the little bulbs which grow on the under side of the frond, usually at the base of the pinnæ. The sterile
FRAGILE BLADDER FERN
|a Portion of fertile pinna||b Tip of fertile pinna|
|c Magnified fruit-dot showing indusium|
fronds are shorter and broader in proportion, and not so easily identified.
53. FRAGILE BLADDER FERN. COMMON BLADDER FERN
A rock and wood fern, found from Newfoundland to Georgia. Six to eighteen inches long, with slender and brittle stalks, green except at the base.
Fronds.—Oblong-lanceolate, thin, twice to thrice-pinnate or pinnatifid; pinnæ lance-ovate, irregularly cut into toothed segments which at their base run along the midrib by a narrow margin; fruit-dots roundish, often abundant; indusium early withering and exposing the sporangia, which finally appear naked.
This plant may be ranked among the earliest ferns of the year. In May or June, if we climb down to the brook where the columbine flings out her brilliant, nodding blossoms, we find the delicate little fronds, just uncurled, clinging to the steep, moist rocks, or perhaps beyond, in the deeper woods, they nestle among the spreading roots of some great forest tree. Their "fragile greenness" is very winning. As the plant matures, attaining at times a height of nearly two feet, it loses something of this first delicate charm. By the end of July its fruit has ripened, its spores are discharged, and the plant disappears. Frequently, if not always, a new crop springs up in August. We are enchanted to discover tender young fronds making patches of fresh green in every crevice of the rocks among which the stream forces its precipitous way. Once more the woods are flavored with the essence of spring. In our
delight in this new promise we forget for a moment to mourn the vanishing summer.
The outline of the Common Bladder Fern suggests that of the Obtuse Woodsia. The two plants might be difficult to distinguish were it not for the difference in their indusia. At maturity the indusium of the Common Bladder Fern usually disappears, leaving the fruit-dot naked, while that of the Obtuse Woodsia is fastened underneath the fruit-dot and splits apart into jagged, spreading lobes.
The sterile fronds of the Slender Cliff Brake also have been thought to resemble this fern, in whose company it often grows.
Williamson says that the Common Bladder Fern is easily cultivated either in mounds or on rockwork.
54. RUSTY WOODSIA
From Labrador and Greenland south to North Carolina and Kentucky, usually on exposed rocks in somewhat mountainous regions. A few inches to nearly one foot high.
Fronds.—Oblong-lance-shaped, rather smooth above, the stalk and under surface of the frond thickly clothed with rusty chaff, once-pinnate; pinnæ oblong, obtuse, sessile, cut into oblong segments; fruit-dots round, near the margin, often confluent at maturity; indusium detached by its base under the sporangia, dividing into slender hairs which curl above them.}}
Last Decoration Day, while clambering over some rocky cliffs in the Berkshire Hills, I found the Rusty Woodsia growing in masses so luxuriant to the eye and so velvety to the touch that it hardly
|a Portion of pinna||b Fruit-dot magnified, showing indusium|
suggested the bristly looking plant which one finds later in the summer.
This fern reverses the usual order of things, being gray-haired in youth and brown-haired in old age, with the result that in May its effect is a soft, silvery green. But even in August, if you chance upon a vigorous tuft springing from some rocky crevice, despite its lack of delicacy and its bristle of red-brown hairs or chaff, the plant is an attractive one.
Environment has much to do with the charm of ferns. The first plant of this species I ever identified grew on a rocky shelf within a few feet of a stream which flowed swift and cold from the near mountains. Close by, from the forked branches of a crimson-fruited mountain maple, hung the dainty, deserted nest of a vireo. Always the Rusty Woodsia seems to bring me a message from that abode of solitude and silence.
55. BLUNT-LOBED WOODSIA
Canada to Georgia and Alabama and westward, on rocks. Eight to twenty inches high, with stalks not jointed, chaffy when young.
Fronds.—Broadly lanceolate, nearly twice-pinnate; pinnæ rather remote, triangular-ovate or oblong, pinnately parted into obtuse, oblong, toothed segments; veins forked; fruit-dots on or near the minutely toothed lobes; indusium conspicuous, splitting into several jagged lobes.
The Blunt-lobed Woodsia is not rare on rocks and stony hillsides in Maine and Northern New York. It is found frequently in the valley of the Hudson. Though not related to the Common Bladder Fern (C. fragilis), it has somewhat the same general appearance. Its fronds, however, are usually both broader and longer, and its stalk and pinnæ are slightly downy. Its range does not vary greatly from that of the Common Bladder Fern, but usually it grows in more exposed spots and sometimes basks in strong sunshine.
Meehan says the Blunt-lobed Woodsia is found along the Wissahickon Creek, Penna., on dry walls in shady places. "One of its happiest phases," he continues, "is toward the fall of the year, when the short, barren fronds which form the outer circle bend downward, forming a sort of rosette, in the centre of which the fertile fronds somewhat erectly stand."
The sterile fronds remain fairly green till spring.
56. NORTHERN WOODSIA. ALPINE WOODSIA
Woodsia hyperborea (W. alpina)
Northern New York and Vermont, and northward from Labrador to Alaska, on rocks. Two to six inches long, with stalks jointed near the base.
Fronds.—Narrowly oblong-lanceolate, nearly smooth, pinnate; pinnæ triangular-ovate, obtuse, lobed; lobes few; fruit-dots somewhat scattered; indusium as in W. Ilvensis.}}
This rare little fern has been found by Dr. Peck in the Adirondacks and by Horace Mann, jr., and Mr. Pringle in Vermont. In his delightful "Reminiscences of Botanical Rambles in Vermont," published in the Torrey Bulletin, July, 1897, Mr. Pringle describes his first discovery of this species:
"I was on the mountain [Willoughby] on the 4th of August and examined the entire length of the cliffs, climbing upon all their accessible shelves. Among the specimens of Woodsia glabella brought away were a few which I judged to belong to a different species. Mr. Frost, to whom they were first submitted, pronounced them Woodsia glabella. Not satisfied with his report, I showed them to Dr. Gray. By him I was advised to send them to Professor Eaton, because, as he said, Woodsia is a critical genus. Professor Eaton assured me that I had Woodsia hyperborea, . . . another addition to the flora of the United States."
Later in the year Mr. Pringle made a visit to Smugglers' Notch on Mount Mansfield, when he was "prepared to camp in the old Notch House among hedgehogs, and botanize the region day by day." This visit was rich in its results. The most notable finds were Aspidium fragrans, Asplenium viride, Woodsia glabella, and Woodsia hyperborea.
57. SMOOTH WOODSIA
Northern New York and Vermont, and northward from Labrador to Alaska, on moist rocks. Two to five inches long, with stalks jointed at base.
Fronds.—Very delicate, linear or narrowly lanceolate, smooth on both sides, pinnate; pinnæ roundish ovate, obtuse, lobed, lobes few; fruit-dots scattered; indusium minute.
The Smooth Woodsia closely resembles the Northern Woodsia, and one may expect to find it in much the same parts of the country. In texture it is still more delicate; its fronds are almost perfectly smooth, its outline is narrower, and its pinnæ are but slightly lobed.
Mr. Pringle tells us that a letter from Mr. George Davenport, asking him to look for Woodsia glabella, awakened his first interest in ferns. His own account of these early fern hunts is inspiring in its enthusiasm:"In 1873 George Davenport was beginning his study of ferns. A letter from him, asking me to look for Woodsia glabella . . . started me on a fern hunt. The species had been found on Willoughby Mountain, Vt., and at Little Falls, N. Y.; might it not be growing in many places in Vermont? When I set out I knew, as I must suppose, not a single fern, and it was near the close of the summer. You can imagine what delights awaited me in the autumn woodlands. I made the acquaintance of not a few ferns, though it was too late to prepare good specimens of them. In this first blind endeavor I got, of
a Fertile pinna
course, no clew to Woodsia glabella. The next summer the hunt was renewed and persistently followed up. I found pleasure in securing one by one nearly all our Vermont ferns. At the time I thought it worthy of remembrance that a single field of diversified pasture and woodland on an adjoining farm yielded me thirty species. Although the two common species of Woodsia were near at hand, Woodsia glabella was still eluding my search. I sent a friend to the summit of Jay Peak in a fruitless quest for it. Finally, on September 1st, I joined Mr. Congdon at its old station on Willoughby Mountain, and made myself familiar with its exquisite form.
"During the first two years of my collecting in earnest, 1874 and 1875, several visits were made to Camel's Hump, the peak most accessible to me. In this way some time was lost, because its subalpine area is limited, and consequently the number of rare plants to be found there is small. Yet, with such dogged persistence as sometimes prevents my making good progress, my last visit to that point was not made till the 20th of June, 1876. On that day I clambered, I believe, over every shelf of its great southern precipice and peered into every fissure among the rocks. At last, as I was climbing up the apex over the southeastern buttress, my perilous toil was rewarded by the discovery not only of Woodsia glabella, but of Aspidium fragrans. . . . There were only a few depauperate specimens of each which had not yet succumbed to the adverse conditions of their dry and exposed situation."
In the following passage Mr. Pringle describes his pleasure, some years later, in the companionships fostered by a common interest in his pet hobby:
"... my delight in this preserve of boreal plants was shared with not a few genial botanists. Charles Faxon came before any of us suspected that he possessed undeveloped talent for a botanical artist of highest excellence. Edwin Faxon followed his young brother, and with me made the tedious ascent to Stirling Pond, a day of toil well rewarded. Thomas Morong came, before the hardships of his Paraguayan journey had broken him down. . . . Our honored President came. . . . In those days, as now, ... he was often my companion to add delight to my occupation and to reinforce my enthusiasm. . . . The gentle Davenport came at last to behold for the first time in their native haunts many of the objects of his first love and study. When I had found for him yet once more in a fifth Vermont station (this was under Checkerberry Ledge, near Bakersfield) the fern he at first desired, and, together with that, had discovered within our limits three or four others quite as rare and scarcely expected, I might feel that I had complied with the request of his letter. But that letter initiated a warm friendship between us and association in work upon American ferns, which has continued to the present time. During these twenty-three years of botanical travel on my part my hands have gathered all but thirty-six of the one hundred and sixty-five species of North American ferns, and from the more remote corners of our continent I have sent home to my friend for description and publication sixteen new ones. Yet I trust that the fern hunt upon which he started me in 1873 is still far from its close."
The above quotations illustrate fairly the enthusiasm aroused by a pursuit which is full of peculiar fascination. Almost anyone who has made a study of our native ferns will recall hours filled with delight through their agency, companions made more companionable by means of a common interest in their names, haunts, and habits.