Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fall Fern Season!

Grape Ferns are the Stars of the Show!

It has been an amazing year for ferns, but the show is not over yet. Fall is when the grape ferns appear in all their glory. After surviving the winter and then withering in the spring, they come bursting forth with new growth that lasts through the fall and into winter again. At first it may be hard to see them, as they grow up amidst the grasses and other vegetation of unmowed open areas (and sometimes in open areas within the woods). When we are looking for them at this time of year, it takes a bit of patience until our eyes adjust to the search image. What usually stands out first are the beautiful light green and then golden colored sporophores, the fertile fronds with the beautiful grapelike sporangia. The sterile leaves stay close to the ground, but encircle the sporophores in a beautiful arrangement.

The grape ferns in this photo are just a few of hundreds in the back yard of a friend of mine. You have to be very careful not to step on some if you walk through the area to enjoy the fabulous display. These are Dissected or Cut-Leaf Grape Ferns (Sceptridium dissectum), our most common but far from ordinary grape fern! It may take a minute or so for you to see them until your eyes adjust, just like in the field. I have seen individuals pop up in new places this year, but this is the densest grape fern site I have seen so far this season!

We have scheduled a fern hike to Highland Park in Greenfield for Sunday September 17th from 1-3PM. See the calendar listing for details. Hope you can join us. It is a more difficult hike than what we usually offer, but a great assortment of ferns.