Ostrich fern fiddlehead

Fiddlehead

 
Andy's Northern Ontario Wildflowers - Ferns, Allies and Liverworts

 

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Illustrated on this page are some northern Ontario ferns.

Ferns are among the more easily recognized plants. Most species have leaves or fronds that are subdivided into many smaller leaflets. Many ferns grow in cool, shady forests. In the Sudbury area, the habitats that support ferns include:

  • wetlands

  • dry rocky talus or dry area in full sun
  • shady forest floor

Ferns are among the oldest living land plants. The geological record indicates that ferns have grown on Earth for at least 400 million years.

Ferns do not reproduce by shedding seeds from the green leaves. Ferns reproduce by producing many tiny spores, each of which can give rise to a small (often 5 mm or less) independent plants. Some ferns reproduce by spore and by producing rhizomes. Oak fern, some Maidenhair ferns, and Bracken grow rhizomes. Rhizomes allow the plant to form sizeable colonies.

Like all plants, ferns produce oxygen and collect carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide food and shelter for other organisms. Ferns also produce soil and reduce soil erosion, creating an ecosystem for other plants to grow.

Some ferns, like the Ostrich fern, are harvested as food. Ostrich fern “fiddleheads” are the tightly coiled new shoots. many people eat fiddleheads as a salad. The rhizomes of the Bracken fern are harvested to use their long fibres and as food.

More than 75 species of fern occur in Ontario.

Click here for more habitat information:

List of common ferns

List of Liverworts


southern_ground_cedar

Southern ground cedar

Height: 3-40 cm

Leaves: Resemble cedar leaves.

Fruiting structure: Illustrated in photo; cylindrical spore-bearing cones, 1-3 cm long; stalk is simple or may be forked, 3-6 cm long.

Habitat: Dry to moist sandy to silty areas in coniferous and mixed forests.

Location: Burwash
Date: April 2, 2000.

 

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Southern ground cedar growing in juniper moss.

Location: Burwash
Date: April 2, 2000.

 

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Southern ground cedar

Sensitive fern

Sensitive fern

Height: 50-70 cm

Leaves: Compound, once-divided, pinnate; sterile leaves have 5-11 pairs of deeply cut, lance-shaped leaflets 3-15 cm long and 1-5 cm wide, wavy margins.

Fruiting Structure: Dark brown, spore-bearing, less 40 cm long, lance-shaped to oblong.

Habitat: Wet ground in woods, shore, ditches.

Other: The fertile leaves persist into winter.  The Sensitive Fern has been linked to poisoning of animals.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 29,2005

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Sensitive fern fertile leaves. The brown fertile leaves persist into the winter.

Location Burwash
Date: May 13, 2000

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Sensitive ferm fertile leaves.

Ostrich fern, Burwash Ontario, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Ostrich fern

Leaves: Clustered, arching; sterile leaves are ostrich-plume-shaped; oblong to lance-shaped, widest near top and narrow towards base; up to 1.5 m long and 12-40 cm wide; widest in upper half; green-coloured; more than 40 pairs of leaflets that are cut into up to 30 or more pairs of oblong lobes with lowest pair clasping stalk.

Height: Up to 2 m

Fruiting Structure: Fertile leaves divided once, erect, 20-60 cm tall, green but turning brown with spore clusters on underside of leaflets; margins fold over spore clusters.

Habitat: Moist, rich soil in deciduous and mixed forest, along streams and riverbanks.

Interest: Fiddleheads represent the unfurled fern. Fiddleheads are harvested in the spring before the young fronds start to unfurl.  They are cooked like a vegetable.

Location: Burwash
Date: June 2, 2002

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ostrich fern fiddlehead, copyright 2006 Andy Fyon

Ostrich fern "fiddleheads". These new growths in the spring are eaten as a salad by many people.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 7, 2006.

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Ostrich fern with fruiting structures, Burwash Ontario, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Ostrich fern with dark-coloured fruiting structures at base, growing in a wet hardwood forest.

Location: Burwash
Date: June 2, 2002.

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Interrupted ferm mass, copyright Andy Fyon, ontariowildflower.com

Interrupted fern

Leaves: Clustered, erect, spreading from a central area; oblong; widest near middle; tapered to tip and base; wooly when young; the fertile leaves or fronds are "interrupted" in the middle by the small fertile leaflets.

Height: Up to 1 m

Fruiting Structure: Fertile leaves are usually on the inner parts of the clump; erect, taller than sterile leaves; two to four pairs of fertile leaflets near the middle and "interrupt" the frond; blackish with dense dark clusters of spore cases.

Habitat: Moist soil in deciduous and mixed forest, wet forest edges, swamps, and edges of ditches and streams.

Location: South of Killarney Highway.
Date: May 26, 2012.

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Interrupted ferm with fertile lfronds, Burwash Ontario, Copyright 2002, Andy Fyon.

Interrupted fern fertile leaves. Note dark colour of the spore clusters that occur in the middle of each frond.

Location: Burwash
Date: June 2, 2002

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Ostrich fern fertile leaves.

Interrupted fern fertile leaves. Note dark colour of the spore clusters that occur in the middle of each frond.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 27, 2000

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Oak fern

Height: Less than 35 cm

Leaves: Single, triangular, lacy, yellowish-green; up to 18 cm long and 25 cm wide; compound, divided 2 to 3 times.

Fruiting structure: Small circular spore clusters near margin on underside of leaflets.

Habitat: Wet organic areas in coniferous and deciduous forest swamps.

Location: Burwash
Date: June 14, 2003

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Oak fern, copyright 2003 Andy Fyon.

Bracken fern, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Bracken fern; also known as Bracken, Brake, Pasture-brake; perennial.

Never has flowers or seeds.

Stem: Bare, erect stem or leafstalk.

Height: Up to 1 m

Leaves: Single, triangular; 3 main divisions; up to 90 cm long and wide, compound, divided 2-3 times; leaflets are opposite, oblong, blunt tips; margins rolled over.

Fruiting structure: Strips of spores clusters on edges of underside of leaves.

Habitat: Often in large colonies on dry to moist, rocky to clayey, coniferous and deciduous forests, logged areas, power lines, roadsides.

Note: May be poisonous to people and animals.

Location: Burwash
Date: June 22, 2002

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Bracken fern mass, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Bracken fern mass.

Location: Burwash
Date: June 22, 2002.

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Bracken fern, Burwash, Ontario, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon

Bracken fern just starting to grow in the spring.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 25, 2002

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Northern Beech-fern

Height: 40 cm.

Leaves: Single, erect, narrowly triangular; 6-25 cm long, 4-15 cm wide; compound, once or twice divided into 10-25 pairs of opposite leaflets; lowest pair of leaflets bend sharply downward.

Fruiting structure: Small circular spore clusters near margins on underside of leaflets.

Habitat: Wet organic conifer and deciduous swamps or moist cedar - hardwood stands.

Location: Killarney
Date: August 26, 2007

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Northern beech-fern, Copyright 2007 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

Northern beech fern, copyright 2007 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

Northern beech fern growing in a crack in a rock cut.

Location: McVittie Dam
Date: August 26, 2007

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Common polypody ferm, copyright 2005 Andy Fyon.

Common polypody

Height: 8 - 30 cm.

Leaves: Spreading, compound with 10-20 alternate leaflets; lance-shaped; square base, pointed tip; 5-25 cm long, 3-6 cm wide.

Fruiting structure: Large dot-like reddish-brown spore clusters in 2 rows on underside of leaves.

Habitat: Mats on dry rocky outcrops in deciduous and coniferous forests.

Interest: In folklore, fern "seeds" or spores are said to bring on invisibility if gathered on Midsummer's Eve. Ferns are also said to be an herb of immortality. Burned outdoors, ferns produce rain. Source

Location: Burwash
Date: October 30, 2004

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Crested woodfern

Form: Erect, perennial; in clusters.

Height: Up to 80 cm.

Leaves: Clustered, erect, compound, divided 2 times; sterile leaves are evergreen, yellow-green colour, 10-8- cm tall, 6-30 cm wide, lance-shaped, widest above the middle; 14-34 pairs of leaflets; leaflets are triangular to oblong and tend to tilt horizontally.

Fruiting Structures: Spore clusters are dot-like on underside of upper leaflets.

Habitat: Wet organic hardwood and conifer swamps.

Location: Trout Lake Road and railroad, in hardwood swamp
Date: July 23, 2001

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Crested woodfern.

Royal fern.

Royal fern

Form: In large crowns of leaves.

Height: 0.6 - 1.8 m.

Leaves: Clustered from central point, erect, egg-shaped; 30-130 cm long, 10-55 cm wide; twice divided with 5-7 pairs of opposite leaflets; leaflets are oval-shaped, short-stalked and up to 30 cm long and 15 cm wide; are 7-10 leaflets per side.

Fruiting Structures: Brown, erect, spore-bearing leaflets with dense dark clusters of spore cases; occur in terminal clusters on sterile blades.

Habitat: Wet shorelines of lakes and streams; wet ditches.

Location: Elbow Lake, Sudbury.
Date: August 3, 2001

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Maidenhair Spleenwort fern; evergreen; also known as Asplenium melanocaulon.

Family: Aspleniaceae (Spleenwort )

Form: In large crowns of leaves.

Height: fronds range up to 12 cm long.

Leaves: Fronds spread from central point; dark stems; fertile and sterile fronds look alike; once-cut fronds; 15-40 elliptical pinnae on each side.

Fruiting Structures: Spores occur on the undersides of the leaflets.

Habitat: shaded limestone, moss-covered outcrops, hidden in cracks in limestone (called "grikes").  Prefers well-drained, moist, limy areas in partial sun. The plant requires shade and excellent drainage.

Interest: The scientific name is derived as follows: Asplenium, from the Latin splen, "spleen" and trichomanes, the Greek name (tricomanes) for this fern derived from "hair of the head".

Location: Manitoulin Island
Date: July 26, 2006

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Maidenhair spleenwort, copyright 2006 Andy Fyon.

Maidenhair Spleenwort fern, copyright 2006 Andy Fyon

Maidenhair Spleenwort fern, copyright 2006 Andy Fyon.

Maidenhair Spleenwort fern growing in cracks formed in limestone pavement.  The cracks are called "grikes" and the blocks between are called "clints".

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Common liverwort

Form: Leaf-like growth along ground from which umbrella-shaped, tree-like stalking fruit grow.

Colour: Pale- to dark-green

Fruit bodies: Umbrella-shaped, tree-like shape; 5 mm tall.

Habitat: Moist areas, such as wet rock, edges of standing water, pools, marsh.

Location: Trout Lake Road and railroad
Date: July 25, 2001

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Common liverwort

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For more information email: andy@ontariowildflower.com
Copyright 2001-2012 Andy Fyon
Page last updated on: June 3, 2012
Website created by Andy Fyon
http://www.ontariowildflower.com/fern.html

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