Sunday, February 24, 2013

Finally, ferns!

You may have noticed that for a blog about ferns, fern-centric posts have been sparse here since last summer. That coincides with my move to Tucson, Arizona, and the sad fact is that I just haven't found that many ferns in the desert. I know they're here! But they aren't as easy to find as in other climates. However, I'm happy to say that I've gotten a fern fix! I just had the opportunity to spend a few days in northern Florida, and even in late February things were lush and there were ferns out in force (I'll cease the letter f-based alliteration now).

There were three ferns I kept running into during my visit, and they're a combination of things that are common in the southeastern U.S. (Thelypteris sp. and Pleopeltis polypodioides), and in subtropical/tropical climates generally, at least in the New World (Nephrolepis sp.). Here they are:

Thelypteris sp.:

Pleopeltis polypodioides:


There are actually several species of both Thelypteris and Nephrolepis found in Florida, including a hybrids of both (my favorite things!). You may recognize Nephrolepis if you have a "Boston Fern" as a houseplant; it's the same genus, and the original Boston fern belongs to Nephrolepis exaltata, which is a frequent escapee in congenial climates. There's a great explanation of the Nephrolepis species of Florida, along with a detailed key, in the July/August 1996 edition of the FL Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Botany Circular. That link goes straight to the PDF. Unfortunately I didn't find this before leaving, so I didn't have a chance to confirm which species I was looking at, but I strongly suspect that it was N. exaltata.

And of course, it wouldn't have been a proper visit to Florida without a gator sighting: