Monday, November 9, 2009

Tasty fern

There are ferns sprouting all over Howarth Park, now that we've had some rain. There are scads of them among the rocky places. Isn't it funny how you see something every day of your life without really seeing it and then, suddenly it's right there and you're smitten? That's what's happened to me. I've found four different kinds of ferns in the park and have been learning about these delicate and amazingly hard to draw plants. This is the most common one, Polypodium calirhiza. I was able to identify this fern by it's habitat and by the peppery, sharp taste of the rhizome, or underground stem. Ferns produce spores rather than seeds and it turns out that they have various ways of storing the spores until they're mature. That makes it easier to identify them, too. Polypodium spores are gathered in sporangia (spore cases, not surprisingly) which are then gathered into groups called sori. So each of those little ovals on the back of the leaflet is a sorus which is full of sporangia which is full of spores which, in this case, aren't yet mature. Apparently, when mature they'll be a different color. I look forward to seeing what color that'll be!

• Steve J. Grillos, Ferns and Fern Allies of California, University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1966.

• Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, University of Wisconsin Green Bay Introduction to the Identification of Ferns.

• Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, Ferns.

• Byzantium, About Ferns.

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