Pioneer Valley Fern Society

First Fern Fiddlehead News!

Blunt-lobe Woodsia

Tuesday was a lovely warm Spring day, so Randy and I ventured forth, hoping we would find our first full fiddlehead of the season. We went to a favorite south-facing slope of Mt Toby which is always warmer in the early Spring and into the later Fall because of the sunny aspect. We were not disappointed! Like the Fragile ferns, they start out really tiny this time of year, but a good search brings rewards. This location is sunny with shallow soils and exposed ledges. Lots of wonderful lichens and mosses on the rocks, and these lovely Blunt-lobe Woodsias (Woodsia obtusa) scattered on the dry hillside, along with Rusty Woodsias, Ebony Spleenworts and Marginal Wood Ferns.

The Blunt-lobe Woodsia (or Cliff Fern) has a cluster of bright green sterile leaves close to the ground, which remain green through the winter. In the midst of them now you may find some of the crowns and new little fiddleheads. The crowns are covered with beautiful white scales, which separate as the crown unfolds into a fiddlehead. In this photo there is a fiddlehead on the right center, a white crown in the middle, and a developing fiddlehead on the left center.

The Blunt-lobe Woodsias are the tallest Woodsias in our region. Although they start small in the Spring, the fronds will grow to over a foot tall. Later in the season, this is one of several ways to differentiate them from the Rusty Woodsias, which grow here as well. They grow on open to partially shaded rock outcrops. Chadde (Northeast Ferns) shows their range as mostly southeastern ME, NH & VT, through MA & RI, eastern NY, into NJ and most of PA. It is threatened (extremely rare) in ME and endangered (extremely rare) in NH, according to Go Botany.

Happy Spring! Keep your eyes open for fiddleheads!