Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Winter Ferns 2023-2024

Evergreen & Marginal Wood Ferns #2 & 3

In past years I did two separate articles for the Evergreen Wood Fern (Dryopteris intermedia) and the Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis). But I think most of you know how to identify them already, so I am just showing two easy ways to differentiate between them. They both grow in symmetric clumps and are green through the winter. They develop new fiddleheads in the spring which develop into the new leaves, and the old ones wither away. Now that we have some snow, it will be easy to see these two of the three common green ferns in the woods (Christmas Fern being the third of course).

In the photo, the partial pinna (leaflet) on the left is the Marginal Wood Fern. The partial pinna on the right is the Evergreen Wood Fern. Marginal is "twice cut" while the Evergreen is "thrice cut", much lacier. The other quick way to tell them apart is if you can find the sori or fruit dots on the back of the fertile fronds. The Marginal's sori are much larger and are located on the margins of the pinnae's lobes. The sori on the Evergreen fern are much smaller and arranged in the middle portion of the pinnae.

Thanks to all who came out for our New Year's Day hike. It was fun to see you all, and finding the 9 ferns that were still green (Christmas, Evergreen, Marginal, Crested, Clinton's, Common and Appalachian hybrid polypodies, Ebony Spleenwort, and the remains of a Dissected Grape Fern). We also found 10 "dead ferns" still in good enough condition to identify (Lady, New York, Maidenhair, Narrow or Long Beech, Sensitive, Royal, Bracken, Hay, Cinnamon and Marsh).

Enjoy the snow!