There are many types of ferns in the world. Ferns are the most versatile plants on the planet, growing in hot deserts and wet rainforests. They display an unprecedented range of frond (leaf) shapes. They can range in size from just a few inches tall to more than 12 feet. Royal and ostrich ferns can reach six feet. Ever wonder what the little brown dots are on the back of a fern leaf? Instead of growing from seeds, ferns grow from spores. When a spore germinates, it becomes a small leaf-like structure called a prothallium. The prothallium produces both male and female sexual organs. When the female organs become fertilized by the male organs, small fern plants begin to grow.
Fern identification may seem hard to do, since at first glance, they all look the same, but upon closer inspection differences appear.
Here are some examples of the various ferns that you can try to identify at Lacawac Sanctuary!
(Onoclea sensibilis) Receiving its name from the tendency to wither at the first slight frost, the sensitive fern grows naturally in wet meadows and woods, swamps and stream banks. This coarse-textured, deciduous fern grows 24 to 30 inches tall. The sensitive fern feature long stalked, bright green fronds with leathery leaflets containing netted veins. Some of the shorter fronds of the sensitive fern will brown up in late summer and remain this way throughout the winter.
(Osminda cinnamomea) This upright, deciduous fern occurs naturally in moist, boggy areas near streams and on shaded ledges. Cinnamon ferns generally grow in clumps two to three feet tall, but have been known to reach heights of five feet if given constant moisture. The cinnamon fern receives its name from the small, younger fronds, which start out bright green before turning cinnamon in color.
(Polystichum acrostichoides) Evergreen, upright, leathery fronds grow 24 to 36 inches tall. These ferns are popular because they are one of the few ferns that will stay green all winter long. The Christmas fern serves as a wonderful host for butterfly larvae. Christmas ferns occur in both dry and moist wooded areas, moist banks and ravines.