Pioneer Valley Fern Society

More Fiddleheads on their way!

Bulblet Ferns are next.

We are eager to see more fiddleheads, but it is still a little early for most. After the Fragile Fern fiddleheads, the next to arrive are usually the Bulblet Fern (Cystopteris bulbifera). I use the red text for this fiddlehead because their most obvious feature are the beautiful somewhat translucent red stems (stipes) of the fiddleheads, and plants when young. Sometimes as they grow bigger the Fragile Fern and Bulblet Fern may look a bit alike, but the Bulblet maintains its reddish color at least at the bottom of the stipe. The Bulblet fern's blade is widest at the base and gets narrower and longer as the season progresses. It develops a distinctive look with these long narrowing blades hanging down from the moist rock ledges or crevices where they grow.

The other distinctive feature of Bulblet Fern are the bulblets, which is their unusual feature and for which they are named. Although they have sori on the underside of their pinnules like most ferns, they also produce tiny pea-like bulblets which can be found on the underside of the pinnae or leaflets. There are usually not that many bulblets on any particular pinnae, and they are usually more likely to be found toward the tip of the leaflet. These bulblets can form new little plants when they drop off the fern.

This photo was taken Friday April 1st in Sunderland, and is pretty early for our records. I put the small portion of finger in the photo so you can see how small the fiddleheads are now. You can click on the photo to see them larger. The red stems will lengthen and the green pinnae will unfurl soon. To see more photos of the beautiful Bulblet Fern fiddleheads in further development, you can look at a page of Bulblet fiddlehead photos I created in 2020 (something to do during the pandemic). They can be found on our PVFS website under Downloads, then Fern Photo Selection. There you will find many pages of photos of the different fiddleheads we will be seeing this season. You can look at the other pages to give you search images of what to look for as the fiddlehead season progresses.

We will be starting our fern walks the end of April. More news on that to follow soon.