Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fiddleheads 2024

Rusty Woodsia

Randy & I hiked to a new location today, trying to find a sunny warm spot where we might find ferns developing a little earlier than usual. We found these lovely hairy Rusty Woodsias (Woodsia ilvensis) growing on a rocky slope on Bare Mountain. My notes for 2022 have the new tiny fiddleheads coming out on Mt Toby about March 27th, but that is a little further north. These are much further along, and one has already become a new leaf.

The Rusty Woodsia fiddleheads are typically very hairy, as are the upper stems (rachis) and underside of the leaves. One of the ways to differentiate the Rusty Woodsia from the Blunt-lobe Woodsia (Woodsia obtusa), which also grows in our area, is by the appearance of the plants in late winter and early spring. The Rusty Woodsia's old fronds all break off at about the same height in the winter, leaving short brown stalks you can see in this photo. The dead fronds remain on the ground in front of the plants. From a distance mostly what you see is a lot of dead brown fronds and a little area of green growth in cracks in the rocks or towards the back of ledges. The Blunt-lobe Woodsia is semi-evergreen, with sterile fronds remaining green & visible through winter into spring. The Rusty Woodsias are much shorter than the Blunt-lobe at full growth. Seeing this nice patch was a pleasant surprise today. Happy Spring!