Fern ID: Marginal Wood Fern

Most ferns wither and die back this time of year, but some remain green throughout the white season. Earlier this week, I photographed these ferns growing on a rocky, forested hillside in Plainville.

Not all ferns grow in clumps like these

I can recognize many common ferns at a glance, but this clump sent me back to my field guides for verification. Using Anne and Barbara Hallowell's Fern Finder, I quickly identified this species as Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis).

Close up of leafy frond

Identification features include:

  • Fronds growing in a cluster and at least a foot tall
  • Blade (leafy portion) more than once-divided, semi-tapering, and evergreen
  • Pinnule margins not toothed
  • Stipe (stalk below blade) with large, papery scales
  • Sori round and located on the margins (of underside of blade)

The hardest part of fern identification for me has been keeping all the vocabulary straight.

Sori (brown dots) along the margins

Marginal Wood Fern grows throughout the northeast, and, due to its evergreen nature, is an excellent fern to learn in the winter, when there are fewer ferns around to confuse it with.

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