As I hike each day, there are so many things that are new to me. So many animals, so many insects and spiders and the plants! So many new plants! I can hardly keep up. What with taking the photographs, bringing them home and identifying what in the world I have captured in pixels.
One type of plant that has always fascinated me is the fern, so it’s nice that they are pretty common up here where I hike every day. They are different than other plants in many ways and as I learn about them, I’ll fill you in! One place that I will be checking is Ellen Honeycutt’s post on ferns which has a wealth of information in it.
My First Formal Introduction
I was first introduced to the science side of ferns while taking a class through Piedmont Virginia Community College, Natural History of Virginia. Oh my! I was just in heaven in that class! My brain got filled to overflowing with knowledge during those several months!
During one of our field trips, I got my first sight of Walking Fern, Asplenium rhizophyllum, a fern that to my eye, does not look like a fern, since the blade, or leaf, does not have a cut-up/frilly/lacy look to it. This is a fern that when one of its long, narrow leaves arches and touches the ground, it can sprout new plants. These leaves can be 1 to 15 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. Sometimes you can find an old plant surrounded by many new, little plants. This fern is an evergreen plant, with leathery leaves.
A fern that I had heard about but never seen, was Hay-scented Fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, which I stumbled upon about mid-summer of this year. I spied it close to the edge of the dirt road that I always traverse and it seemed to be calling to me. Walking over to it, a little voice in my head told me to rub the fronds and see what it smelled like. Deep in the folds of my brain I knew it was Hay-scented Fern, although I had never seen this type of fern before. Sure enough, it had a beautiful fragrance. The name hay-scented left me wanting a better descriptor for this fern which is both lovely in form and aroma!
Although, I see in my Peterson Field Guide, Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America, that Hay-scented ferns usually occur in large patches; whole fields or forest gaps filled with feathery fronds, I feel very fortunate just to have found my little patch here on my daily hikes up the mountain. There are many more ferns that I see on a daily basis and I will fill you in on some of them next time I post here!