Monday, April 25, 2011

An odd fern

Southern adder's-tongue, Ophioglossum vulgatum. I had the good fortune to stumble into a small colony of these weird little ferns yesterday, in Adams County. The adder's-tongue ferns scarcely resemble their more pinnate, cut and dissected allies, and one could be forgiven for wondering what the heck one of these things is. In Ohio, their closest relatives are the grape ferns in the genus Botrychium, but the adder's-tongues don't look much like those, either.

We've got three species of Ophioglossum: this one, the Northern adder's-tongue, O. pusillum, and the very rare limestone adder's-tongue, O. engelmannii. Both of the other species are listed as endangered in Ohio, with the limestone adder's-tongue found elsewhere in Adams County in a few prairies.

Southern adder's-tongue likes to grow in scruffy haunts such as young woods, field margins and other semi-shaded uninteresting places that people often don't look at very closely. And it's quite easy to walk right by this plant, the eye dismissing it as the young leaf of some young plant still on the rise.


A.L. Gibson said...

Excellent find! I love these species of Ferns, and unusual they are indeed! I have Ophioglossum engelmannii high on my life list.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks Andrew, and I know just where to go for O. engelmannii. Would have looked yesterday but time didn't allow...

Anyway, you should have no problem finding that one with a few directions, should you need them.