|Location of Discovery ||Moist Woods |
|Question ||Can you please tell me what this plant is? It's not ringing a bell. I found it in a small patch of moist woods recently. It is a short (about 12-16 inches tall) plant with brown seeds remaining during winter. No leaves present. Thank you! |
You've captured a photo of the "seed-bearing" leaf of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis
), a native Ohio plant. The fancy name for the "seeded" leaf is a sporophyll. In fact, the leaf is not even called a leaf. In reference to ferns, a leaf is referred to as a frond. Can you guess why the nickname for this plant is beaded fern?
The browned bead-like divisions are from last summer. The life cycle of a fern is rather unique because the "seeds" in question are never actually fertilized. As such, and more accurately, we call them spores. Each bead produces and contains spores. And yes, another term for you: the structure that makes the spores is called a sorus. Oh boy! As you observed, sensitive fern (and most ferns) do enjoy/tolerate wet woods. We have several patches of sensitive fern growing nearby Rocky River Nature Center at our wetland edge. By fall, the fronds wilt and turn brown, hence the common name.
Ferns are of ecological importance because they are eaten by many organisms. Let us know if you come across any other unknowns!