Ferns and Non-flowering plants

Primary Reference Resources:

"Audubon Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic States" by Peter Alden and Brian Cassie


Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea): Light green fronds w/cinnamon colored fertile fronds in the center. They die off as the fern matures.  Grows in open fields, seeps and meadows. Location: Dolly Sods, MNF, WV, Black Bird Knob Trail .

Spinulose Wood Fern (Dryopteris carthusiana): Very common. Grows to 30 inches in dense thickets. Found in moist forests and marshes. Location Gunpowder Loop Trail, MD.

Mountain Woodfern (Dryopteris campyloptera): Tripinnate. Stipe green, grooved with occasional brown scales. Location: Roaring Plains, WV.

Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron): Look for the distinctive dark red stem. Location: Jug Bay, Patuxent River, MD. Photo by Ken Clark.

Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum): 20 inches. Frond divided into 3 leaflets. Fertile frond atop stalk. Location: Old Rag, SNP, VA. Photo by Ken Clark.

Maiden Hair Fern (Adiantum pedatum): Moist, dark forests, limestone rocks. Blue-green fronds with purple-black stalks. Location: Gunpowder South Trail, MD.

Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana) : Grows in moist areas, bogs and swamps. Location: Moss-Hanne Tr, Black Moshannon State Park, PA.

Rock Polypody (Polypodium virginianum): Grows in cracks of large rocks, cliffs. P. appalachianum is very similar. Location: South Prong Trail, Roaring Plains, WV.

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina): Grows to 4 feet. Arches outwards. Found in clumps or thickets. Location: Lake Sherwood and Meadow Creek Trails, MNF, WV.


Hay scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula): The fragrance from a field full of this fern tells you all you need to know about the origin of its name. Stipe green-brown. Tripinnate. Sori appear as small gray dots (Third photo). Location: Roaring Plains, MNF, WV.

Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata): Similar to Sensitive Fern (below) except leaflets are smooth, not notched. Fertile Frond is smooth while that of Sensitive Fern looks like clusters of tiny green grapes.

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis): Dies at first frost, hence its name. Somewhat similae to Netted Chain Fern (above) but note the notched leaflets.

Braken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum): Large fern with single stalk arising from the ground with three fronds extending from the top. Each frond in turn as several sub-fronds. Location: BFT, PA.

Cut-leaved Grape Fern (Dissected Grape Fern)-
(Botrychium dissectum -  Sceptridium dissectum var obliquum) :
Cut-leaved grape fern is variable in appearance. The plant to the right shows the lacy leaf margin that gives this fern its name, but some plants have smooth-edged leaves (left specimen). Photo by Ken Clark. Sporophyll photo by Dimitri Tundra.




Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides): Easy to spot in the winter since this is one of the few evergreen ferns in the region. Leathery pairs of leaflets on stout, woody stem. Leaflets of each pair are somewhat offset. Begins as an upright plant but tends to "lay down" with age. Used in Christmas decorations. Location: Bull Run Mountain Conservancy.

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis): Can grow quite tall. Has opposing yet alternating leaflets, dark stems. Tops of fronds have a "feathery" appearance. Grows near water. Several stands were found along Long Pond, Green Ridge SF, MD.

New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis): Up to 2 feet in length. Frond tapers at both ends. Note the brown sori on the back.

Virginia Chain Fern (Woodwardia virginica): Alternating leaflets, black, shinny stipe (stem). Location: Downs Park.

Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris): Found growing in wet, rich soil. Location: Downs Park, MD.


Southern Running Pine (Lycopodium digitatum) Evergreen whorls of light green. Reproduces by spores produced on club-like stalks. (See Ground Pine below.)

Running Ground Pine (Lycopodium clavitum ): The name says it all. Can cover large areas of the forest floor. Photo by Dimitri Tundra.

More Lycopodium

Ground Pine (Lycopodium obscurum) Another club moss, shown here with its club spores. They will eventually turn brown.



Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina): Not a fern but a wax myrtle, a shrub. Produces green burs. Location: BFT, PA.


Scouring Rush (Equisetum hyemale): Grows around water. Previously used for cleaning cookwear. Location: Greta Falls NP, VA.


Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense): Forest, fields and swamps. Location: SNP, VA.

Thallose liverworts (possibly Lunularia cruciata): Bottom photo: showing a female gametophore in the top right, and numerous gemma cups
containing tissue that is dispersed by rain for asexual reproduction. Thought to be one of the first plants to migrate from the ocean to dry land. Location: Middle Patuxent River, Gorman area. Photo by Ken Clark.


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