Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fiddleheads 2024

Bulblet Fern

The Bulblet, or Bulblet Bladder Fern (Cystopteris bulbifera) is a beautiful delicate fern that tends to be found on moist calcareous rock ledges and crevices. In some places it can be found growing in large numbers on rock, or even growing on the ground. One place where Bulblet Fern is growing extensively like a mat on the ground is at Bartholomew's Cobble in Sheffield. It is quite a sight!

As a fiddlehead it is distinctive with its fine hairy red and somewhat translucent stem, and the little green fiddlehead of unfolding new leaflets at the end. The Bulblet Fern stem (stipe) will turn green with time. The fern frond can grow to two feet and more in length in the right environment. The blade is widest at the base and gets smaller and smaller as it grows longer. A distinctive feature of the mature Bulblet Fern, besides its graceful long shape, is the presence of little bulblets in the upper portion of the blade, near the rachis or costa of the pinnae. They look like little green peas when new, and some dark ones may be found late into the year on some plants. These bulblets drop off the fern and can germinate into new little plants. There is a good photo of the Bulblet Fern with mature bulblets as well as sori in our News article for the Bartons Cove fern walk for July 23, 2023.

I hope the young fiddleheads we have been finding survive our recent cold weather, rain, sleet and maybe snow. Spring in New England! Those warm spells were so nice! But I am glad the mosses and ferns are getting more moisture that may help them through the summer. For now we are still planning our first Fiddlehead walk for Sunday April 21st, but will be monitoring whether the cold spells have set the development back to a more normal timing again.