Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Not your usual Dissected Grape Fern

Triple Sporophores on a Dissected Grape Fern

Fiddleheads are to Springtime as Grape Ferns are to Fall - something new and emerging and fun to find!

Randy & I went to Mt Washington MA today, one of our favorite Grape Fern places, to see this year's bounty of Dissected Grape Ferns (Sceptridium dissectum). Our friend and fern lover Joe Strauch first introduced us to this area some years ago. In past years there were hundreds and hundreds of them standing tall with their big bright yellow sporophores, but we were not sure what to expect with the drought this summer. At first it looked like very slim pickings, but as our eyes adjusted to seeing through the dense ground cover of low bush blueberry, dewberry, grasses and goldenrods, we found many very small but healthy looking Dissected Grape Ferns. The first ones were only 3-4" high and competing for view with the low bushy growth and tall grasses. But as we got down to their level and looked horizontally across the fields, we started seeing many more very low but visible. I took some photos of the scattered grape ferns mixed among the other vegetation as a game like "Where's Waldo?", but since I can only put one photo in these emails, this is the one I chose.

We did find some of these grape ferns with sporophores as tall as 9 or 10 inches, and the winner was 16 inches tall. In past years most of the grape ferns would be in the foot or so tall range. This one was under 10 inches tall, but you can see why I wanted to highlight it today. We have not seen a Dissected Grape Fern with 3 fertile fronds (sporophores) before. The stems were all coming out of the same spot, with just one sterile frond. Pretty cool! Perhaps it was broken or nibbled on, and came back differently. We did not try counting all the grape ferns across the fields, but estimate there were over 100, mostly in patches of about a dozen or so. Not as many or as tall as previous years, but still wonderful to spend time finding and enjoying.

The other interesting thing about the grape ferns today was that most of the plants with sporophores had the very dissected type of leaves (blades). You can see it in the photo. We usually see mostly Dissected Grape Ferns much less finely cut. We did see some of the more typical dissected leaves, but the bigger plants tended to have the very dissected form of leaves.

Overall a great way to spend the day. Hope you are able to get out and find some lovely fall ferns as well!