Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Fall Ferns

Climbing Fern a special find

Many of you are familiar with our common evergreen ferns, which remain green through the winter. Much less common but present in our area is the Climbing Fern (Lygodium palmatum). It is a delicate attractive fern which has the distinction of being the first plant protected by law (1896 in Hartford CT). Another common name for this fern is Hartford Fern, because of that distinction. It looks more like a climbing vine than your typical fern. The entire frond is the viney rachis and all the palmate-shaped leaflets or pinnae. It can be up to 15 ft long. At the tips of the frond are the lovely fertile leaflets, which are much smaller than the sterile ones beneath them. Growing in the wild, it will look like a tangle of vines. The Climbing Fern is the only species in this genus (Lygodiaceae) native to North America. If you see this fern you should report the location to the MA Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. It is considered uncommon in MA, CT & RI, and extremely rare in NH.