Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Winter Ferns 2023-2024

Crested Fern #6

Crested Ferns (Dryopteris cristata) are members of the wood fern family, and therefore related to our common Evergreen Wood Fern (Dryopteris intermedia) and Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis) among others. Until about 10 years ago I did not know this obligate wetland plant, although I spent a fair amount of time in wetlands. Now I see it commonly in the kind of wetlands you normally need boots to enter. They can often be found growing in tussock sedge mounds in the really wet mucky or ponded areas. Since the sterile fronds remain green through the winter, you can go out and find them now. This photo was taken by Randy in a mucky wetland alongside the Rail Trail in Amherst, off Station Rd.

It looks different from Evergreen and Marginal ferns because the Crested blade is fairly narrow the entire length, and is widest around the middle. It has leathery leaflets or pinnae, and the lowest pair are shorter and broadly triangular. The other noticeable feature is that the leaflets or pinnae tilt horizontally, in what is sometimes called a "venetian blind" effect. Boott's Fern (Dryopteris x boottii) and Clinton's Fern (Dryopteris clintoniana) are two other wood ferns which are found in wetlands in our area and look somewhat similar, but the Crested Fern has a pretty distinctive appearance with the features described above.