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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fern Fanatics: Why You Should Love Ferns

They’re lush. They’re soft. They can carpet the forest floor. Whether you’re in swamp, field, or on rocky ledge, they are there. Ferns add a vibrant texture to our landscape, and when we begin to look more closely at them, there is a lot to discover.

Ferns occupy a unique niche amongst the plants of our world. Unlike many of our plants that reproduce by flower and seed, ferns are derived from a more primitive lineage that, like mushrooms, use spores to spread and multiply (although like some flowering plants, they can also spread underground via rhizomes). Flip over the frond of a fern (the leaf-like blades that protrude from the ground) and you may discover the ferns’ sori, or “spore packets”.

While we often think of ferns as occupants of dark, dank forests, many types can thrive in almost every crack and crevice of Vermont. Royal Fern may line the edges of lakes and ponds, while Common Polypody clings to the rocky surfaces of boulders and cliffs. While some are easy to identify, like the elegant Maidenhair Fern which grows in limestone soils of rich, moist forests, others can present quite a challenge to tell apart.

Flex your fern skills and join us for a woodland walk in Middlesex Notch with former botany professor Murray Evans. This will be a leisurely walk to explore some unusual species including Silvery Glade Fern and Maidenhair Spleenwort. No experience is necessary, and we hope you’ll take this opportunity to revisit some familiar ferns or explore a whole new facet of the natural world. This event takes place Please call 229-6206 with any questions and to register.

Bonus Question: Can you identify the fern photos in this blog post? Below are some resources to help get you started:

Winooski Valley Park District Fern Guide
Common Ferns of Vermont

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