Friday, July 10, 2009


I love ferns. It’s probably a result of my childhood association of ferns with dinosaurs. In the old movies, the costumed iguanas and baby alligators were so often jumping out from behind ferns or wrestling in a clearing surrounded by ferns, that I began to suspect there could be a dinosaur behind any fern I saw. In any case, I’m always happy to see ferns and Blue Jay Barrens, despite its dry conditions does support a few ferns.

This is a patch of Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis. They will do well in both shade or full sun. The photo shows the leaves catching the morning sun.

This is quite a showy plant with its big leaves and light green color. The leaflets change their orientation as you go down the stalk until the bottom pair converges to resemble an open pair of scissors.

The sensitive fern needs a wetter environment than is generally found at Blue Jay Barrens. This patch is growing at the bottom of a slope where the runoff water from the field converges. The light green patch next to the trees is the ferns.

There are also several Christmas Ferns, Polystichum acrostichoides, growing in the woods. You generally find the greatest concentration of Christmas Ferns in areas of the woods that were historically not used by cattle. Individual Christmas Ferns are starting to appear in other areas of the woods, but it’s been a slow process. Most likely the cattle liked the taste of Christmas Ferns and ate all they could get to.

A few decades ago, while attending OSU, I took a local flora class and the first plant we looked at on our first field trip was a Christmas Fern. I was really excited to finally be taking a class that had me doing exactly what I wanted to do. I remember crowding up to look at the boot-like shape of the leaflet base that was one of the key characteristics of this plant.

Ebony Spleenwort, Asplenium platyneuron, is the most common fern at Blue Jay Barrens. You can find it almost anywhere there is a little bit of shade and moisture.

Rattlesnake Fern, Botrychium virginianum, is abundant in certain parts of the property. The plants are looking less robust than normal and I’m wondering if this is a result of the severe droughts we’ve had here the past couple of years.

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