Newton Conservators logo fall photo of Sawmill Brook
 
 

This Month in the Newton Conservators Almanac

January 2012

 
 
photos by Don Lubin (more info and photos)

FERNS IN THE SNOW

Unlikely as it may seem, some ferns are easy to find despite a several-inch blanket of snow. Most ferns emerge in April, grow spores under their fronds in the summer, scatter them, and lose the fronds after the frost. But SENSITIVE FERN, Onoclea sensibilis, (A) and its cousin OSTRICH FERN, Matteuccia struthiopteris, (B) have a different strategy. They grow separate short fertile fronds in mid-summer and then hold most of the spores through the winter, after the green sterile fronds have died. They then release their spores early the following spring, before other ferns have the chance. You can see the erect fertile fronds, brown stems with rows of beads, even in January if the snow isn’t too deep. Look in swampy or wet areas; they are very common. They even invade damp areas of lawn sometimes. Ostrich fern is relatively uncommon in eastern Massachusetts, though it is common enough in damp areas north and west of here. Its fronds form the tightest vase of any of our ferns. They are widest near the top, like an ostrich plume. The leaflets get tiny towards the base, and almost reach the brown-scaled crown that shows above the ground. The fiddleheads that are sold as produce in this country are all ostrich fern.

More information:

Sensitive Fern Ostrich Fern  

US Department of Agriculture

US Department of Agriculture

 

Connecticut Botanical Society

Connecticut Botanical Society

 
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center  

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

 

 

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