Sunday, May 30, 2010

Phegopteris connectilis

One fern we saw in the Dells, mostly on Blackhawk Island, was Phegopteris connectilis. I'd like to highlight it because I haven't done so previously on the blog, and it's a neat little guy. It has a relative that is fairly common in shadey, moist woodlands in the eastern U.S., Phegopteris hexagonoptera, but I've seen P. connectilis much less frequently. These are the only two species of the genus found in the U.S.; they have one other relative in eastern Asia. Both of our species are easy to spot because the lower two pinnae are strongly reflexed, meaning they point nearly backwards from the rest of the frond, as you can see in these photos of P. hexagonoptera (in the top photo, look at the frond in the middle of the photo, and its two bottom pinnae are pointing nearly straight up):

P. connectilis has the same general form, though those pinnae aren't perhaps quite so opposed to the rest of the plant. The best way to tell the two species apart is that in P. hexagonoptera, those bottom pinnae will actually be attached to the next set of pinnae by a little wing of tissue along the rachis, while in P. connectilis they will be separate. The following photos are some of the P. connectilis we saw on Blackhawk Island.

Friday, May 28, 2010

WI Dells

My first field trip of the summer field season was, once again, to the Wisconsin Dells. This beautiful area boasts sandstone-bluff-lined river channels that are perfect for canoeing and kayaking, which is a great way to explore the cliff ferns and islands that dot the river channels. This year we spent some time wandering around Blackhawk Island, just upriver from the Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, which was kind enough to lend us canoes. The island has many sandstone cliffs, and the horizontal bedding planes produce great ledges for ferns to perch:

We also came across a few tipped-up old trees, providing fertile habitat for ferns and perhaps shelter for critters.

Among the many species of ferns that can be found on Blackhawk Island are several Dryopteris, and D. intermedia is particularly flush here. You can see its habit and sori here, as well as the sori of D. marginalis, which is also abundant in this area because of the sandy, rocky soils.

There are also angiosperms, of course, and this was a particularly cute little Sanguinaria, or bloodroot:

Friday, May 7, 2010


I wanted to mention a great website for people interested in plants, particularly of the U.S. Southeast. It's called, and it is "a clearinghouse of information about native and naturalized plants of the Carolinas and Georgia." Of course, many of the plants on the site have ranges outside of those states, so it's a resource worth knowing about. I recently contributed a bunch of photos of ferns, as well as audio files of about a hundred plant name pronunciations, so if you explore a bit you might come across me reciting the name of, say, Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes. It's a fun site, go visit.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Woodwardia fimbriata

Apologies for my lack of posting in the past few months... but it's spring now! And I just took a lovely trip to California to visit the fern collections at the University of California-Berkeley herbarium and do some exploring, so I've got material to stock a few posts between now and the start of my summer fieldwork, when things should really get hopping around here.

And so, without further ado, may I introduce you to Woodwardia fimbriata, the Giant Chain Fern. It lives up to the 'giant' part of its common name, I can tell you. Apparently its fronds have been known to reach 8 feet in length (!). This species is native to the west coast and up into Canada, and like other Woodwardia species it has linear, sort of squat sori in a unique pattern that instantly identifies it as a member of this genus. Members of the group are called the chain ferns because of this pattern of the sori.

These pictures of Woodwardia fimbriata were all taken in Muir Woods National Monument, north of San Francisco. It's a beautiful, serene place, full of redwoods, like the one I'm contemplating in the following picture. A redwood photo is obligatory for any discussion involving Muir Woods: