Emerging Ferns

My early morning walks are great for shifting my perspective about my neighborhood. What may seem mundane in the daylight, is unique and full of mystery in the darkness. On a recent walk, I was struck by the beauty of the unfurling fiddleheads and took their photos by the light of my headlamp.

I am unsure whether the above fiddleheads are Sensitive Ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) or Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris). I am leaning towards Sensitive Ferns because there are remnants from last year’s fertile fronds in the area. The only hesitation I have is that the fiddleheads are supposed to be a pale red color. These seemed more like a vibrant light green. This could be a result of the light or that these fiddleheads are further along in their growth.

I am pretty sure this picture is of an Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana). At this early stage, I am using the fuzzy fiddleheads and the habitat to help identify these fern. The fuzzy fiddlehead is an indication of both the Interrupted Fern and the Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum). Cinnamon Ferns prefer wet soil including swamps and the edges of bogs. The Interrupted Fern is known to live in a variety of locations including hardwood forest, ditches, roadsides, and meadows. The location of these ferns is along a roadside with decent soil drainage. This leads me to believe that these are Interrupted Ferns.

I will definitely be back to this area so that I can track the growth and these ferns and then be able to positively identify them.

A note about eating foraging for fiddleheads: Fiddleheads are a very popular food to forage. However, over harvesting can have a negative effect on the eco-system and the fern population. The basic tips for fiddlehead foraging are:

  • Only eat what you can positively identify.
  • Some fiddleheads are edible and some are not. The common warnings is to not eat the fuzzy ones. (See Interrupted Fern picture!)
  • Only forage from healthy crowns that contain four or more fiddleheads.
  • Harvest the fiddleheads by snapping them off or cutting them with a knife.
  • Do not try and pull fiddleheads up by the roots or damage the unharvested fiddleheads. This will threaten the growth of the ferns.
  • You should not pick more than half of the emerging ferns on any crown.
  • If an area has already been harvested, do not repeat the harvest.

A Fun Fact about Ferns:

“Ferns are one of the oldest groups of plants on Earth, with a fossil record dating back to the middle Devonian (383-393 million years ago). . . Today, ferns are the second-most diverse group of vascular plants on Earth, outnumbered only by flowering plants. With around 10,500 living species.” (American Fern Society)



6 thoughts on “Emerging Ferns

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    1. Thanks Melanie! I really like the effect too. I have a few more plants that I want to photograph like this, maybe for an upcoming post. Thanks for the comment!

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