Asplenium rhizophyllum (Walking Fern)
|Also known as:
|part shade, shade; damp, calcareous, moss-covered rocks
|summer to fall
|2 to 14 inches
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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Leaves and stems:
Leaves are evergreen, simple, not compound, 2 to 14 inches long and 1 to 2½ inches wide, generally lance-linear in shape, rounded to heart-shaped at the base, occasionally with a pair of rounded lobes at the base (auriculate). Shorter leaves typically have a blunt point or are rounded at the tip. Longer leaves gradually taper to a long, fine point, the tip usually rooting and creating vegetative colonies. The stem is dark and scaly at the base but green above. Leaf edges are wavy or slightly indented, but not toothed. The surface is covered in an obscure network of veins and the leaf underside is slightly hairy. Young leaves grow horizontal to the ground while older plants are more arching. Fertile leaves are typically larger than the sterile leaves.
The sori (group of spores) are found on the underside of the leaf, irregularly scattered but primarily in the juncture of veins. The sori are linear. There is a translucent tissue (indusium) that partly covers the sori but quickly shrivels and become inconspicuous. The spores are initially yellow and turn a reddish-brown at maturity.
Rather unfern-like in appearance, Walking Fern is easy to identify because it has a simple leaf (not compound) and the tip of the leaf will root and a new plant will begin to grow. It is because it spreads this way it has acquired the common name “Walking Fern”. Look for it on shady moss-covered rocks and boulders in the southeast counties. In some references it is known as Camptosorus rhizophyllus.
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Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Frontenac State Park, Goodhue County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?