Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fiddleheads 2024

Fragile Ferns First of the Season

We had quite a surprise to find the Fragile Ferns (Cystopteris tenuis) so far along so early this year, after that really warm spell in February. Usually we start looking for the Fragile Fern crowns and then fiddleheads in mid-March at the earliest locations. Randy happened to stop and take a look the middle of February and found a few plants already had new green fronds! Just one to a plant, but they have lasted as it got colder and now a little warmer again. We did not see the fiddleheads on those Fragile Ferns, so my listing of new fiddleheads 2024 starts with the tiny ones we found in Leverett on 2/27/24, still a few weeks early! I took this photo the next day, when I remembered to come back with a penny for scale. They are really tiny, but clearly little fiddleheads! They are growing under the leaf litter for now, but will eventually grow tall enough to be seen more easily.

In earlier posts I used to call this Cystopteris fragilis, but it appears the consensus now is that it is the Mackay's Fragile or Brittle Fern (C. tenuis or C. fragilis var. mackayi) that is growing around here.

Since this sighting we have now found the new crowns and little fiddleheads starting on the Blunt-lobe Woodsia, and also have found tiny little Narrow Beech Fern crowns and emerging fiddleheads, and tiny little new Sensitive Fern fiddleheads. It will be difficult to decide which one to highlight next! These are all much earlier than usual.

If you want to have a head start on fiddlehead ID, you can check out the fiddlehead photo pages I put on the website under Downloads, then "Fern Photos Selection". There are 14 pages of fiddlehead photos, showing what each of the 15 different ferns look like in fiddlehead stage. Almost all are from 2020, when I had plenty of time on my hands and decided to really dive into fiddlehead ID. Good for reference.