Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Although the sun is shining brightly at the moment here in Madison, my computer tells me it's 5 degrees outside. I think many people are starting to feel a hankering for spring and some semblance of warmth in the outside world, and for me one of the most welcome signs of spring (besides the crocuses) will be new ferns. When new fern leaves emerge, they are typically rolled up in these familiar fiddleheads, also called croziers, which slowly unfurl to reveal the delicate architecture of the fronds.

This unfurling process of the tightly-curled leaf is called circinate vernation. Circinate refers to the circular or ring-shape of the fiddlehead, and vernation comes from 'vernal' (meaning 'spring'), when new leaves tend to emerge. By remaining tightly rolled up, the growing tip of the leaf is protected during emergence, and this protection is often supplemented by thick hairs or scales that cover the fiddlehead, as you can see in some of these photos. You can also see that the lateral leaves are in fiddlehead-form too, just as the tip is.


Ian said...

I just wanted to let you know that I linked to this post and the previous one from Berry Go Round, a new plant-focussed blog carnival.

Theo Bromine said...

Nice pictures (mmm, fiddleheads, though some of those look a bit fuzzy to be edible, and are probably toxic as well). Thinking of ferns in the spring is a welcome imaginary trip away from the bright and sunny but -20C landscape outside my window today.