Cystopteris protusa
TRUE FERN FAMILY (Polyodiaceae)

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This native perennial has erect leaves (fronds), up to 20 inches long, which emerge from the ground and develop into a triangular shape (A). They are twice divided, both times alternate on the stalk (B). The ultimate segments are oval shaped with toothed margins. These ferns reproduce by spores, found in tiny bodies called sporangia and clustered in “fruit dots” (sori) on the backs of the fronds (C). In early spring new “fiddlehead” stalks emerge from last year’s plants (D). Identified by fronds emerging directly from the ground. Compare with the similar Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum); it has branched stems and a fertile frond.

Grows in rich, moist soil of the woodlands, especially in ravines. In Fontenelle Forest, common in Mormon Hollow. At Neale Woods, common along Bittersweet and other woodland trails.

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