Pioneer Valley Fern Society

First Fern Signs of Spring!

Fragile Ferns start the season.

You will have to look carefully at the image to find our first sign of new ferns, but it is there, right in the middle. The Fragile Ferns in Amherst are always the first to show the start of fiddleheads among our known spots. It seems things are a little later this year, probably because of all the colder weather and snow we have had in the last couple weeks.

The photo shows a few Fragile Fern crowns, little balls which will open up into fiddleheads. The larger one on the left center is starting to open up. Randy first noticed them yesterday and we went back today to find a few of these emerging fiddleheads, but most are still in the brown, or brown and green crown phase.

I was trying to come up with a way of explaining how small these are, but could not find a good equivalent in everyday things. Smaller than a peppercorn, larger than the head of a pin... So we brought some coins to place next to them for scale. The largest of this group was 3/16th of an inch in size! It takes a little doing to see these among the old leaves & grasses and sometimes mossy areas in their natural environment. But soon they will be standing tall and be lovely and easier to see among their niches in the stones. Randy took this photo today.

I am going to list them as Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Fern is another name for it), although there is some discussion on whether that is our common fragile fern of the area or another.

Let us know when you start seeing new fiddleheads coming out. We are always interested in which ones start appearing first & where in our area. We have our favorite spots, but are always interested in finding more.