Dryopteris fragrans (Fragrant Fern)
|Also known as:||Fragrant Wood Fern, Fragrant Shield Fern, Fragrant Cliff Fern|
|Family:||Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern)|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; often on limestone; cliffs, talus slopes|
|Plant height:||3 to 12 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves (fronds) are compound, evergreen, narrowly elliptic in outline, tapering at both ends, 3 to 12 inches long, up to 2 inches wide, with 15 to 30 pairs of branches (pinnae) that are mostly opposite and may be crowded and overlapping along the central stalk (rachis). Pinnae are mostly oblong in outline with 6 to 12 pairs of leaflets (pinnules), and scattered brown scales along the midvein. Pinnules are irregularly lobed or with rounded teeth. Veins are branched and forked.
Pinnules are variably covered in short-stalked glands, especially along the edges and on the underside. Stems are grooved, also glandular, with tan to rusty colored scales that are largest near the base, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. The plant grows in an asymmetrical clump, the fronds mostly erect but can spread in all directions. Old, shriveled stems persist to the next season.
The sori (group of spores) mature in mid-summer and are found on the underside of the leaf. They are circular and arranged at vein tips. A large, kidney-shaped, translucent tissue (indusium) covers the spores and is attached on inner curve. Indusium are often crowded and overlap. Spores ripen to dark brown or black.
The indusium is initially pale green to whitish and turns brown to rusty colored with age. Not all leaves have spores and there is no significant, visible difference between fertile and sterile leaves.
The smallest of the Dryopteris species, Fragrant Fern gets its name from the aromatic glands, most noticeable when fresh and sometimes described as a “fruity” fragrance. This characteristic, along with the rocky habitat, large scales all along the stem, the large, persistent indusium that turns from whitish to rusty brown, and the persistent, shriveled old fronds make this fairly easy to identify. At a casual glance it may resemble Rusty Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis), with which it often grows side-by-side, but which is typically smaller, is densely hairy but not glandular, has hair-like indisium, and lacks the persistent, old fronds.
Please visit our sponsors
Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Fragrant Fern with characteristic persistent old fronds
- Fragrant Fern plant
- Fragrant Fern habitat
- stems are covered in brown scales to the base
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?