Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ferns That Like Meadows

Ferns That Like Meadows

The hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula, 2-3 ft.) is found in sunny openings in rocky woods where its light green lacy fronds grow in dense masses. It spreads madly, and even when transplanted produces new fronds from underground runners all season. The fronds taper gradually at the tip. When cut, crushed, or dried, the foliage gives off a wonderful sun-on-the-meadow scent.

Interrupted-fern (Osmunda claytoniana, 4 ft.) is very like the cinnamon fern but the identifying feature is its freedom from tuft at the base of the pinnae. On the sporophyll the orderly march of pinnae up the stem is interrupted by a section of twisted curled dark brown spore cases—a most interesting feature and, of course, the reason for its name. Very hardy, very easy, very beautiful.

The lady fern (Athyrium filisfemina, or Asplenium filis-femina, 3 ft.) though delicate to look upon, is tough, and a rank grower. By fall it becomes raggedy and loses its color, but all summer its soft green fronds and feathery look make it a must. The curved fruit dots are one of its identifying features;

also, the pinnae increase in length sharply from the tip of the frond to the base, giving it a triangular look.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum, 1-3 ft.) is a delicate, lovely species that grows in rich moist leafy soil. It will be content in a rocky, well-drained location, especially on a steep bank. In the spring the fronds uncurl in small wiry button¬hook designs of a deep magenta color. These fronds open into a sort of semi-circle pattern. The whole effect of the plant suggests, in color and texture, wild columbine, or meadow rue. This is the fern that dances. The fluttering delicate pinnae are ever in motion, so susceptible are they to every breeze. New fronds constantly emerging from the running rootstock produce fresh green foliage from April to September. This is one of the most beautiful of all ferns in its swirling patterns, its rhythms, and dancing grace.

The marsh fern (Dryopteris thelypteris, 2 ft.) grows under the speckled alders, or perhaps you'll find some plants in a sunny bog among the cattails, facing their fronds helter skelter in any old direction. This is a rampant grower. Its lower pinnate are very long, and the pinnules of the sporophyll appear pointed because of reflexed edges.

The New York fern (Dryopteris noveboracensis, 1-2 ft.), though related to the marsh fern, is different in that the fronds taper at both ends. New Yorkers are said to burn their candles at both ends, hence its name! The fronds, thin in texture, grow erect and are arranged in parallel ranks facing the light. Stems are smooth and scale-free. What a pleasant odor the fern emits when crushed, and what a fine ground-cover it creates, multiplying and spreading rapidly. Look for the fruit dots on the margins of the pinnules.

The oak fern (Dryopteris disjuncto, 1 ft.) is a delicate and beautiful triangular-shaped fern whose very pointed pinnae grow opposite each other on the stem. It thrives in the company of hemlocks and cedars and must have constant dampness and perfect drainage.

The ostrich fern (Pteretis nodulosa, or P. struthioteris, 4-7 ft.), a lovely plumy variety, reproduces from its underground runners one new plant every second year. It spreads most rapidly in rich wet woods. In July the short bronze sporophyll, resembling curled fronds, rises up in the center of the plant.

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