Arkansas Native Plants – Ferns

Know Your Natives – Northern Maidenhair Fern

Northern Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) of the Brake Fern (Pteridaceae) family, formerly of the Polypody (Polypodiaceae) family, is a beautiful, shade-loving fern with broad, circular fronds. The genus name is from a Greek word for “unwetted” in reference to the leaves’ ability to shed raindrops. The specific epithet refers to the foot-like shape of the larger pinnules (secondary leaflets). In the U.S., the species is of common occurrence across the eastern half of the country from the Canadian border southward, absent only from Florida and rare in much of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. In Arkansas, it occurs across…

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Know Your Natives – Lady Fern

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina*) of the Woodsiaceae (Lady Fern) family is a medium size fern of North America, Europe and Asia. The genus name originates from a Greek word referring to “door” in reference to the hinged indusia (protective spore covers). The specific epithet is based on Latin words for “fern” and “woman.” Lady Fern occurs across the U.S., including Alaska, as well as Canada. In Arkansas, Lady Fern is the only species of Athyrium and is found statewide. Preferred habitat is shady sites with moist to wet soils: rich woods, seeps, springs, moist areas of prairies, and at swamp…

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Know Your Natives – Hairy Lipfern

Hairy lipfern (Cheilanthes lanosa)* of the Brake Fern (Pteridaceae) family, formerly of the Polypody (Polypodiaceae) family, is a small to moderate-sized evergreen fern with delicate fronds. It occurs at higher elevations from Oklahoma to Connecticut, principally in the following physiographic provinces: Interior Highlands, Interior Low Plateaus, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge and Piedmont. In Arkansas, it occurs in rocky elevated areas of the Interior Highlands which stretch across the northwestern half of the state. The genus name combines Greek words for “margin” and “flower,” from the marginal sori (fruit dots). The specific epithet describes the pubescence. The common name “lipfern”…

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Know Your Natives – Sensitive Fern

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) of the Sensitive Fern (Onocleaceae) family, formerly of the Polypody Fern (Polypodiaceae) family, is a widespread fern with dimorphic fronds (leaves): deciduous, sterile, photosynthetic (green) fronds and persistent, non-green, fertile fronds. The genus name is from the Greek for “closed cup,” from the rolled pinnules (divisions of pinnae) that conceal the sori (fruit dots). The specific epithet is Latin for “sensitive.” This monotypic fern (only species in the genus) occurs across the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, as well as in eastern Asia. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide. Natural habitat is shaded to sunny…

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Know Your Natives – Royal Fern

Royal fern (Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis*) of the Royal Fern (Osmundaceae) family is a large herbaceous fern with a crown of clustered spore cases (sporangia) on the fertile fronds (leaves). In the U.S., it occurs from eastern Texas to Minnesota and thence to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it occurs pretty much statewide. The genus name, according to some writers, originates from “Osmunder,” a Saxon name for Thor, the god of thunder. The specific epithet is from the Latin for “regal” or “royal,” in reference to the fern’s size and majestic appearance. The variety name is from Latin…

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Know Your Natives – Woolly Lip Fern

Woolly lip fern (Cheilanthes tomentosa*) of the Brake Fern (Pteridaceae) family, is an evergreen fern that becomes brown and shriveled during drought but revives with renewed moisture. The genus name combines Greek words for “lip” (cheilos) and “flower” (anthos), in reference to the location of the sori or “fruit dots” (see below). The specific epithet describes the plant’s pubescence: tomentose, from the Latin, meaning “with thickly matted hairs”. The common name “lip fern” refers to the smoothly under-turned margins of the pinnae (leaflets). Cheilanthes tomentosa is also called “resurrection fern”, a name that applies to several different species. In the U.S.,…

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Know Your Natives – Resurrection Fern

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides var. michauxiana), formerly Polypodium polypodioides, of the Polypody (Polypodiaceae) family is an evergreen fern that occasionally appears to die in periods of dryness while being “resurrected” when again moistened. The genus name is from Greek words meaning “many” and “shields” (see “peltate scale” below). The specific epithet is based on Greek words for “many” and “foot”, in reference to its rhizomes. In the U.S., resurrection fern is found from Texas to southeast Kansas to Delaware, thence southward to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it is known from every county. (The species, with its several…

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Know Your Natives – Marginal Wood Fern

Marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) of the Wood Fern (Dryopteridaceae) family, an evergreen, twice-cut fern, occurs throughout much of the eastern U.S. from Texas and Minnesota to the Atlantic Coast, but is mostly absent from the Gulf Coastal Plain and unknown from Louisiana and Florida.  In Arkansas, it has been documented to occur in the northwestern half of the state in the Interior Highlands.  The genus name is based on the Greek words for “oak” and “fern” which relates to occurrence of wood ferns among oak forests.  The specific epithet relates to the location of sori (spore clusters) near the margins…

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Christmas Fern - Polystichum acrostichoides

Know Your Natives – Christmas Fern

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) of the Wood Fern (Dryopteridaceae) family prefers shady areas of deciduous woodlands and embankments with well drained, moist sandy to rocky soils. Christmas fern is found throughout much of the eastern half of the U.S., westward to Texas, Kansas and Minnesota. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide. Ferns in this family have round sori (singular: sorus, the technical term for a “fruit-dot” or cluster of spore-producing sporangia) occurring in rows, thus, the genus name which means “many rows.” This medium size “coarser” fern has large glossy green fronds (leaves) throughout the year making it ideal for Christmas…

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Botrychium virginianum

Know Your Natives – Grape Ferns

Grape ferns, succulent ferns in the Ophioglossaceae (Adder’s-tongue Family), are named for their round, clustered sporangia (spore cases), which resemble a bunch of grapes.  These ferns are smooth, without scales of any kind, and have soft fleshy stems and roots.  The leaves (fronds) are generally triangular.  The roots, two to three inches below the soil surface, spread radially from a short underground vertical stem or rhizome.  Grape ferns are solitary, having a single stipe (petiole) on infertile fronds and a divided stipe on fertile fronds that supports a dissected vegetative blade and a branched cluster of spore cases (sporangia).  Grape ferns…

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