Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ferns, and Not-ferns

Northern lady fern, athyrium angustum
Ferns, feathery ferns, charming ferns. What sumacs do for the Halibut Point skyline ferns do for its ground.
Marsh fern, parathelypteris palustris
Ferns await discovery in shady nooks. In damp places they muster out in full sun.
Bracken fern, pteridium aquilinum
The bracken fern, a very common presence on the moors, succeeds in dry sunny conditions.
Bracken fern shoot
Its rhizomes travel a fair distance beneath the ground to send up new shoots.

Developing bracken fern
A bracken fern shoot produces fiddleheads that open out as fronds. It seems a slow-motion triumph of exertion and destiny.

Mature bracken fern
In common with mosses ferns reproduce asexually by spores. Unlike mosses they have vascular systems that pipe water and nutrients throughout. They tend to occupy marginal habitats where various environmental factors limit the success of the flowering species that dominate today's world. Ferns had their day especially in the Carboniferous Era when they were large and numerous enough to be the raw material for the earth's coal and petroleum reserves.

Ferny foliage of milk-parsley, peucedanum palustre
A plant can be 'ferny' without being a fern, as are many members of the carrot family like this milk-parsley, which makes flowers and seeds.
Sweet fern
Sweet ferns, comptonia peregrina, are often found side by side with bracken ferns on the moors of Halibut Point.  The peregrinations (travels from one place to another) of their underground stems through dry scrubby areas earned the peregrina nomenclature.
Sweet fern catkins, the male 'flowers' in spring
Sweet ferns are shrubs with woody stems that flower with catkins like alders, birch trees, willows and oaks.
Sweet fern, with 'ferny' foliage but in the flowering kingdom
Other than the feathery shape of their leaves sweet ferns have little in common with true ferns.
Royal fern, osmunda regalis
In waterside locations you may happen on the tall distinctively tailored royal fern.
Royal fern, foliage detail
Its delicate texture comes from the tissue-thin smooth-edged subdivided leaflets (twice pinnate) that give most ferns a toothy appearance.
Ostrich fern fiddleheads
Equally statuesque ostrich ferns rise like enormous shuttlecocks from shoots resembling cello heads more than fiddleheads.
Ostrich fern, matteuccia struthiopteris
The brown fertile fronds of the ostrich fern develop in autumn, persist erect over the winter and release the spores in early spring.

Cinnamon fern, matteuccia struthiopteris

Cinnamon ferns colonize vigorously in summer greens and fall brocades.
Cinnamon fern in the fall

All comers are welcome to notice the decorative ornamentation of ferns at Halibut Point as wild flowers come and go.
The botanically inquisitive may also locate these species in the Park:
Dennstaedtia punctilobula - hayscented fern
Onoclea sensibilis - sensitive fern
Parathelypteris novaborecensis - New York fern
Parathelypteris simulata - Massachusetts fern

1 comment:

  1. Martin...perhaps you should have a bird watch added to your blog. Spotted a golden eagle on my creek today, Sunday.