Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Weekly Spring Fern Update

Rattlesnake Fern starting to emerge.

As the days get warmer, more plants are starting to emerge. I always love seeing what the new arrivals are!

This emerging stem is a very young Rattlesnake Fern (Botrypus virginianus). I can recognize it because I visit this site many times a year and there is always at least one Rattlesnake Fern growing in this spot. This emergent stalk does not grow into a typical fiddlehead. It just unfurls its large triangular leaf as it grows upwards. You can see a photo of this fern at a slightly later stage of development by looking at the PVFS News article posted 4/20/21 on our website. In looking over my list, it looks like I have not posted a photo of it later in the season, despite the fact that it is a pretty and distinctive fern. You can see some mature Rattlesnake Fern photos in our Photos section on our PVFS website. Look under Botrichium virginianum, one of the other scientific names for this fern. I use Chadde's (Northeast Ferns) scientific name here.

Rattlesnake ferns are one of the early new ferns. It is in the Adder's Tongue Family (Ophioglossaceae), and is the largest and most common member of that family in the U.S. It is found in every state except Utah, and also grows in Central and South America, Eurasia, China, Korea and Japan. It is supposedly called Rattlesnake Fern because the sporangia on the fertile frond look like the rattles of a snake. Once you have seen and identified this fern, you will probably remember it.

Looking forward to more new ferns!