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Ferns and related (seedless, vascular) plants (Pteridophyta):


Ferns (Filicopsida: all fern families), horsetails (Equisetaceae) and club mosses (Lycopodiaceae) are vascular *, non-flowering plants that do not produce seed (Maddison and Schulz 2004). All of these seedless, vascular plants have a life cycle separated into two distinct stages. The large plant, called the sporophyte (spore producing plant), produces spores by meiosis, the cell division process that creates sex cells. Cells produced by meiosis have only one copy of each gene (i.e. one set of chromosomes rather than two). These “haploid” spores germinate and produce the second life cycle stage called the gametophyte (gamete-producing). Gametophytes are either very small, green, moss-like plants, in the case of most ferns and horsetails, or underground tuber-like plants closely associated with, and dependent upon, specific types of mycorrhizal fungi, in the case of many club mosses. The gametophyte produces haploid sex cells (gametes: sperm and eggs) by ordinary cell division (mitosis). Sperm […]

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Asplenium platyneuron ebony spleenwort

Asplenium platyneuron ebony spleenwort Aspleniaceae ASPL; Bx, pb (DeCandido 2001); NY, ct, rr, tr; R, bg, cl, cp, gb, wp;

Fern from a short, unbranched rhizome 0.3-0.4 cm thick, but covered by old leaf stalk bases. Leaves evergreen, tufted at end of rhizome; 5-50 cm long, stalk wiry, dark brown, smooth, 1/4-1/3 the length of the blade, scaly at base; blade 4-50 cm long, 2-7 cm wide, once pinnate, tapered at both ends, midrib (rachis) dark brown, wiry, shiny, leaflets alternate, 15-22 per side, almost stalkless, to 1 cm long, 0.4 cm wide, tip rounded, base with small, ear-like lobe on the lower side that overlaps the rachis, margin slightly toothed, leaflets becoming much smaller near base of blade; fertile leaves few, longer than sterile leaves, linear-oblong, with 30-50 leaflets per side, blades 1-3.5 cm long, 0.3-0.6 cm wide (Flora of North America 1993+). Spore cases oblong, brown, in fish-bone […]

Adiantum pedatum maidenhair fern

Adiantum pedatum maidenhair fern Adiantaceae ADPE; R, gb;

Fern from a creeping rhizome to 0.5 cm thick. Leaves (fronds) arising individually or few together along rhizome, twice pinnate; stalk 10-60 cm long, wiry, shiny, purple-black; blade set at right angles to stalk, 10-40 cm long and wide, horseshoe- to nearly ring-shaped with a forked, semi-circular branching pattern, primary leaflets (pinnae) 2-6, 12-22 cm long, 5-9 cm wide, all arising on one side of the rachis (axis) each pinna with numerous, fan-shaped, secondary leaflets (pinnules) in a pinnate arrangement (Radford et al. 1968), midrib close to inner edge. Spore cases 0.2-0.5 cm long, 0.1 cm wide, along the lobed outer edges of the pinnules. Wetland status: FAC-. Frequency in NYC: Very infrequent. Origin: Native. Habitat: Understory of undisturbed moist woods, high nutrient, humus-rich, soil, pH 4.6-6.6, tolerant of shade, somewhat tolerant of fire, intolerant of drought, salt (USDA, NRCS 2006). Notes: […]

Lycopodium obscurum

Lycopodium obscurum ground pine/ tree clubmoss Lycopodiaceae LYOB; Q; R, bd, gb, h, ro, t;

Evergreen perennial herb, colonial from deep underground stems (rhizomes), leafy stems erect, to 20 cm tall, tree-like, dark green, branches with a slender, bottle-brush appearance. Leaves tiny, scale-like, overlapping, in 6-8 ranks, about 0.5 cm long, 0.1 cm wide, numerous, sharp-pointed. Spore cones yellow, 2-7 cm long, about 0.6 cm wide, in a candelabra-like arrangement above foliage; spores produced July-Sept. (Radford et al. 1968). Wetland status: FACU. Frequency in NYC: Infrequent. Origin: Native. Habitat: Undisturbed, moist woods, swamp forest edges. Appears more shade tolerant and requiring more moisture than L. digitatum. Notes: see L. digitatum. Lycopodiums cannot be successfully transplanted or propagated for restoration to natural areas (Montgomery and Fairbrothers 1992). Habitat protection is the only means of conserving these plants.

Photo: MBGargiullo


Lycopodium digitatum ground cedar

Lycopodium digitatum (L. complanatum var. flabelliforme) ground cedar/ fan clubmoss Lycopodiaceae LYDI; R, gb, sv;

Perennial evergreen herb to 30 cm tall, colonial from stems running along the ground or just below the, soil surface, rooting at nodes, leafy stems erect, rather yellow-green, branches flattened, 0.2-0.3 cm wide, fan-shaped. Leaves tiny, scale-like, flat, in 4-ranks, tips sharply pointed, bases broad and fused to branch surface. Spore cones yellow, 2-4 (or more) cm long, 0.5 cm wide, 1-4 or more in a candelabra arrangement above green branches. Wetland status: FACU. Frequency in NYC: very infrequent. Origin: Native. Habitat: Dry, sterile soil in undisturbed open woods or burned or cut-over areas. Notes: Lycopodiums cannot be successfully transplanted or propagated for restoration to natural areas. Habitat protection is the only means of conserving these plants. They have a two stage life cycle and are usually dependent upon specialized symbiotic, mycorrhizal fungi during the […]

Equisetum hyemale rough Scouring rush

Equisetum hyemale rough Scouring rush Equisetaceae EQHY; Q, tl; R, c, ca, sb;

Perennial evergreen, from a widely creeping rhizome, densely, often extensively, colonial; stems 0.2-2 m tall, 0.3-1.7 cm thick, green, finely ridged, unbranched, rough-textured, interior hollow. Leaves reduced to toothed sheaths around each node, teeth narrow, tips pointed 1.5 cm, margin toothed, black banded at tip; teeth falling (deciduous) from sheath. Spore cone dark, at top of stem, to 2.5 cm long, with point at tip; produced May to Sept. Wetland status: FACW. Frequency in NYC: Infrequent. Origin: Native. Habitat: Open, scrubby or partly shade areas in moist to wet soil. Notes: Cell walls contain silica deposits as is typical for all Equisetum species, (Cody and Wagner 1981). Apparently easy to transplant but can become aggressive (Montgomery and Fairbrothers 1992). Equisetaceae originated in the Devonian period of the Paleozoic Era, 360-250 million years ago, and were dominant land […]

Why Meadows Become Forests

Eastern red cedar seedling in an old field

Plant community succession: Why meadows become forest.

The normal plant community in the New York City to Philadelphia region is forest. This region receives an average annual rainfall of roughly 44 inches, distributed throughout the year. This means that woody vegetation will become established in undisturbed sites, given sufficient time (including dry, sandy soils of back dunes and pine-barrens). Periodic disturbance of storms, fires or clearing is what keeps some sites open. Without human interference, fire is a very infrequent cause of disturbance in this part of the country. Unlike the western United States we rarely have dry lightning, the regular cause of fires in the west. In the northeast, according to NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), lightning is almost always accompanied by rain. With few exceptions (some pine-barrens species), our native plants are not adapted to […]