Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Pretty New Fern

Mountain Spleenwort

What is your favorite fern? I have a hard time answering, but if I were to choose a favorite fern Family, it would be Aspleniaceae, the Spleenwort Family. In our area of western Massachusetts, the species we might see in this family are Maidenhair Spleenwort, Ebony Spleenwort, Walking Fern, and rarely Wall-Rue. All beautiful to me! Now we have a new one to add to our list of ferns seen in their natural environment, Mountain Spleenwort (Asplenium montanum). But we had to go to Connecticut to see it! A fern friend was willing to give us directions on where to find this lovely fern. We are very grateful!

According to S. Chadde (Northeast Ferns), this fern has been found in Worcester and Berkshire counties. I am hoping maybe we can find some in Franklin or Hampshire Counties! Now we know what to look for. Unlike the other spleenworts in our area, which generally prefer limestone or calcareous rock, this one does not. It is found in shaded, moist crevices and ledges of "sandstone, gneiss, granite and shale" (Chadde). The site we visited fit that description.

Their color is described as blue-green, which seemed to be the case in the plants that were less dried out. Despite its delicate appearance it is considered evergreen. I included a photo Randy took of one of the ferns with his ruler for scale, since there is only rock around it for comparison. They are small and pretty. Key features besides the color, location and being evergreen are the flattened rachis (the part of the stem where the pinnae or leaflets come off), and the widely spaced pinnae. They look similar to Wall-Rue to me, but Wall-Rue is smaller, sparser and found on calcareous rock.

I have added a pdf page with more photos of this pretty fern on our PVFS website, under Downloads, Fern Photos Selection. I am hoping when you folks are out hiking you will keep your eyes out for this fern. It would be great to get a record of it in Franklin or Hampshire County, and we would love to see it in Massachusetts!