Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Winter Ferns 2023-2024

Walking Fern #4

Some ferns look especially nice in snow, and the Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum) is one of them. I had to lightly brush the new snow off them, but they are still a beautiful green. They are in the same genus as the more common Maidenhair Spleenwort and Ebony Spleenwort, They sometimes hybridize with Ebony Spleenwort, creating Scott's Spleenwort, but we have not seen any of those yet. Walking Ferns tend to grow in patches on moist rock faces and in crevices or under ledges with a northerly exposure and higher ph. These were growing near Ebony Spleenworts, but at another site they are near many Maidenhair Spleenworts.

Their name comes from the way they often "walk" by elongated tips which may root in the moss and form new little plantlets. Those are under the snow in this photo. They also have dark brick-red sori in a scattered pattern on the back of the fertile fronds.

Go Botany describes the Walking Fern as "fairly widespread" in MA & VT, but rare in NH and RI. Chadee (Northeast Ferns, second edition) shows them as present in the four western counties and MIddlesex county in MA. They are always a treat to find.

Hope you are still venturing out in the snow, looking for ferns, clubmosses and other fun plants.