Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Four Fall Ferns

We're in the midst of a beautiful stretch of fall weather. The beeches and oaks are in their autumn glory.   Beeches light up the forest understory with their golden yellow leaves.
Tucked into the rocks and other shady places in these woods are patches of dark green--clumps of ferns that stay evergreen even after frosty mornings. We have four common fall ferns that stay evergreen. Each has distinct fronds and sori (fruiting body) patterns.

The marginal woodfern (Dryopteris marginalis) is dark green and leathery with twice-divided fronds. The sori, as its name suggests, are at the margins of the leaflets.
The intermediate woodfern (Dryopteris intermedia) is lacier, with thrice-divided fronds, the fern you might find in a flower bouquet. The sori are away from the margins of each subleaflet.
The Christmas fern is dark green, leathery, and slender in form. The once-cut leaflets are "eared." This fern looks particularly lovely amidst a fresh snowfall in the middle of winter.
And finally, I never miss a chance to write about one of my favorite ferns: the common polypody (Polypodium virginianum). This once-cut fern colonizes rocks, aiding in the weathering of the rock and the formation of soil, and thus leading the way for other plants to take root. It's fruit dots are large and orangish in color on the underside of the leaflets that are "winged" at the base. Look at most any large, shaded boulder and you'll find a colony of this cheerful, small fern.
And those are my four favorite fall ferns.

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