Ferns Pteridophyta

New York City has lost nearly 40% of ferns found here prior to 1980 (DeCandido 2000).

Fern Life Cycle.Patrick Brownsey. 'Ferns and lycophytes - Reproduction', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Jul-13. www.TeAra.govt.nzendiagram10856fern-life-cycle

Fern Life Cycle.Patrick Brownsey. ‘Ferns and lycophytes – Reproduction’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Jul-13. www.TeAra.govt.nzendiagram10856fern-life-cycle (Accessed 11/2014).

Seedless, vascular plants: 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.

Sporophyte: 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. Prothallus).

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 (1N) sex cells (gametes: sperm and eggs) by ordinary cell division (mitosis). Sperm requires water to swim to the eggs (usually rain).

Fertilization:The resulting fertilization produces a diploid (2N) sporophyte plant with the standard, two sets of chromosomes (i.e. two copies of each gene). As is evident from the above, these plants produce neither flowers nor seeds. Spores are generally produced in specialized parts of the plant.

Sporangia: Ferns may have spore cases (sporangia) on the undersides of some leaves or leaves that specialize entirely in spore case production. Club mosses and horsetails often produce spore cases in cone-like structures, usually at the tips of stems.

*A vascular plant is one with “veins” made up of tube-like xylem and phloem cells that conduct water and nutrients to and from roots and throughout the plant.

Ferns | Horsetails | Ground Pine / Club Mosses


Adiantum pedatum maidenhair fern Pteridaceae ADPE; R, gb; -    Adiantum pedatum is a 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 […]
Asplenium platyneuron ebony spleenwort Aspleniaceae ASPL; Bx, pb (DeCandido 2001); NY, ct, rr, tr; R, bg, cl, cp, gb, wp; -     Asplenium platyneuron is a 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 […]
Asplenium rhizophyllum  (Camptosorus r.) walking fern Aspleniaceae ASRH; NY rr (possibly extinct Z. Wang 2017); -    Asplenium rhizophyllum is a perennial, evergreen fern, from a short, erect rhizome, 0.2 cm diameter.  Leaves in rosettes at end of rhizome, stalk 0.5-12 cm long, green, base brown, scaly, blade undivided, 5-30 cm long, 0.5-5 cm wide at base, very narrowly triangular with an elongate tip that often roots and grows new rosettes at […]
Athyrium filix-femina subsp. angustum (Athyrium filix-femina var. angustum; Athyrium filix-femina var. michauxii) subarctic ladyfern Aspleniaceae ATFIA; Bx, br, pb, rd, vc, wv; NY iw, tr; Q, a, cu; K fs; R, bd, ca, ev, gb, h, lp, lt, pr (Wenskus 2004), sv, w; Often planted in restorations. -     Athyrium filix-femina subsp. angustum is a fern from a short, creeping rhizome. This subspecies is found from Greenland south to N. Carolina (Flora of North America efloras.org 10/2017).  Leaves in tufts, 0.4-1 m long; stalk 15-55 cm long, shorter than blade, the top part smooth, straw-colored, occasionally red (forma rubellum), base dark, red-brown to black, with brown […]
Azolla caroliniana Carolina mosquitofern Azollaceae (Salviniaceae) AZCA; R, ml (Torrey 2017) - Azolla caroliniana is small aquatic plant, the  floating leaves growing from from thread-like, prostrate stems 0.5-1.0 cm long. These branch regularly above every third leaf. The general appearance of the plant is moss-like. The slender, inconspicuous roots are unbranched (simple). Plants can form mat to 4 cm thick. Leaves alternate, tiny, often with red margins […]
Botrychium dissectum  (B. biternatum; B. oneidense; Sceptridium dissectum) cut-leaf grape fern Ophioglossaceae BODI; NY; Q, j; R, gb; -   Botrychium dissectum is a fern 10-30 cm tall, from fleshy, mycorrhizal roots, it appears to be colonial (personal observation).  Leaf solitary, arising from lower part of fertile stem, roughly triangular in outline, on a stalk 3-7 cm long, blade divided three to four times, often reddish when expanding, and bronze in autumn, divisions usually unequal, […]
Botrychium lanceolatum lance-leaved grape-fern Ophioglossaceae - Botrychium lanceolatum is a small Fern, fleshy, unbranched, with a single stalkless leaf, deciduous. From an underground stem associated with mycorrhizal fungi. Plants 6-25 (40) cm tall, hairless. Leaf: Dark green, blade appearing more than halfway up the stem, stalks of pinnae none (sessile) or to only 0.6 cm long, blade more-or-less triangular in outline, […]
Botrychium virginianum rattlesnake fern Ophioglossaceae BOVI; Q, cu (Greller 1985); R, lp, w; -     Botrychium virginianum is a fern, 20-75 cm tall, from fleshy, mycorrhizal roots.  Leaf solitary, 7-20 cm long, 10-30 cm wide, triangular, sometimes appearing 3-parted, 2-4 times pinnate, each segment toothed, thin, deciduous; spore-bearing stalk 7-20 cm long, spore bearing leaf 6-15 cm long, with opposite branches, 2-3 times pinnate, held above sterile frond from top […]
Cystopteris fragilis common fragile fern Aspleniaceae CYFR; Q, j (NY Flora Assoc.1990); R; - Cystopteris fragilis is a fern from along the end of a short, densely scaly rhizome.  Leaves to 35 cm stalk shorter than, or as long as, blade, dark at base, often greenish above, brittle, easily broken; blade to 20 cm long, 8 cm wide, 2-3 times pinnate, bright green, 8-18 leaflets per side, lowest leaflets as […]
Cystopteris protrusa lowland fragile fern Aspleniaceae CYPR; R, gb (R. Lynch ca. 2002); - Cystopteris protrusa is a fern much like C. fragilis, but rhizome is long-creeping, densely hairy, and the growing point extends 2-4 cm beyond the leaves.  Leaves more scattered, midribs of leaflets with scattered glands, lowermost secondary leaflets wedge-shaped at base, often with a short stalk.  Wetland status: UPL.  Frequency in NYC: Rare, NYS, S1, E. One location […]
Dennstaedtia punctilobula hayscented fern Dennstaedtiaceae DEPU; Bx, bg, pb, vc, wv; NY, hb; Q, cu, ri; R, ah, an, ar, bd, cs, d, ev, fw, gb, gr, h, k, ml, sv, w, wp, t, x. Also planted in restorations: Bx: br, rd; NY: ft, iw, tm; Q: a, cu; K: fs; R: pr (Wenskus 2004). - Dennstaedtia punctilobula is a fern to 80 cm tall, from a slender, rapidly growing, branching rhizome, new growth can also arise from buds on frond stalks (Hammen 1993), aggressively colonial;  Leaves arising singly along rhizome; stalk to 20 cm long, dark reddish-brown, pale above, stalks and midribs hairy; blade to 25 cm wide, fragrant, feathery, twice […]
Deparia acrostichoides (Athyrium thelypterioides, Asplenium acrostichoides, Deparia a.) silvery glade-fern Aspleniaceae ATTH; R; -    Deparia acrostichoides is a fern from a short, creeping rhizome.  Leaves 35-110 cm; blade longer than stalk, 13-22 cm wide, once pinnate and pinnately lobed, tip sharply long-pointed, pinnately divided, basal leaflets reduced and pointing downward, midrib (rachis) hairy, slightly scaly, hairy, leaflets 15-20 per side, stalkless, tips long-pointed, deeply, regularly lobed, lobes to 1.3 […]
Dryopteris carthusiana  (D. spinulosa) toothed woodfern; spinulose woodfern  Aspleniaceae DRCA; Bx, pb; NY, hb; R, gb, lp, mv, r, wt; -     Dryopteris carthusiana is a fern from a short rhizome. Leaves evergreen, in a rosette; stalk 1/4 – 1/3 as long as blade, green with pale brown, membranous scales, blades about 50 cm long, 25 cm wide, widest slightly below middle, twice pinnate and pinnately lobed to three times pinnate; tip pinnately lobed, primary leaflets 10-15 […]
Dryopteris celsa log fern Aspleniaceae DRCE; R, t; - Dryopteris celsa is a fern to 1.2 m tall, from a creeping rhizome.  Leaves deciduous, stalk to 50 cm long, scales large, dark center, pale margin, and hair-like pale brown scales; blade 35-60 cm long, 15-30 cm wide, not scaly, egg-shaped to oblong, gradually tapered to tip, base not tapered much, pinnate, leaflets to 18 pairs, […]
Dryopteris cristata crested woodfern Aspleniaceae DRCR; R, gb (possibly extirpated by Bluebelt work); -     Dryopteris cristata is a fern from the end of a short, creeping rhizome.  Leaves evergreen, 35-80 cm long, in rosettes, stalk and midrib brown-scaly; blades twice pinnate and pinnately lobed, to three times pinnate, narrow; with 10-25 pinnate leaflets (pinnae) per side, leaflets 5-9 cm long, 3-4 cm wide, widest just above base, firm, bluish-green, tilted […]
Dryopteris goldiana Goldie’s wood fern Aspleniaceae DRGO; R; - Dryopteris goldiana| is a fern from the end of an ascending rhizome. Leaves semi-evergreen, to 1.2 m long, in a rosette, stalk to 40 cm, base densely scaly, scales to 2 cm long, central part dark brown with paler margin; blade to 30 cm wide, egg-shaped in outline, leathery, bronze-green, once pinnate, leaflets (pinnae) 12-16 per […]
Dryopteris intermedia evergreen wood fern Aspleniaceae DRIN; Bx, pb, wv; R, cl (planted), gb (near mm), wt; - Dryopteris intermedia is a fern from a short, scaly ascending to erect rhizome, roots sparingly colonized by VA mycorrhizas (Brundrett and Kendrick 1988).  Leaves in a rosette, to 80 cm long, evergreen; stalk 10-30 cm, scales broad, pale brown with darker markings; blade to 50 cm long, 20 cm wide, tip long-tapered, base blunt, widest just […]
Lycopodium obscurum ground pine; tree clubmoss Lycopodiaceae LYOB; Q; R, bd, gb, h, ro, t; -   Lycopodium obscurum is an evergreen perennial clubmoss, 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 […]
Matteuccia struthiopteris ostrich-fern Onocleaceae MAST; Bx, pb (possibly planted); -    Matteuccia struthiopteris is a fern from deep, branching rhizomes, colonial.  Leaves in erect, vase-shaped rosettes from large root-crowns; to 2 m long, sterile leaves with short, green, whitish-hairy stalk, blade narrowly oblong, to 50 cm wide, once pinnate, leaflets pinnately lobed, widest above middle, top more-or-less rounded, base tapered, leaflets numerous, narrowly oblong, tip long-pointed, […]
Onoclea sensibilis sensitive fern Onocleaceae ONSE; Bx, pb, sf (also planted), vc, wv; NY, bl, rr; Q, a, cu, f, j; fs; K, p; R, bk, bm, ca, cp, fk, gb, h, is, js, lp, mls, mm, pm, ro, sv, t, v, w, wp; Also planted in some restorations; Bx, sf; Q, a; -     Onoclea sensibilis is a fern from a creeping, branching, rhizome, colonial; roots associated with vesicular-arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi (Berliner and Torrey 1989).  Leaves deciduous, arising singly or few together along rhizome, to 1 m long, blade 20-60 cm long, 15-35 cm wide, bright green, sterile blades pinnate leaflets opposite, up to 12 pairs (Del Tredici 2010), […]
Osmunda cinnamomea cinnamon fern; (flowering fern)* Osmundaceae OSCI; Bx, pb, vc, wv; Q, cu, i, j; R, ah, an, bk, cl, cn, d, e, ev, fk, gb, gr, h, is, lp, mc, pm, r, ro, sm, sp, sv, t, v, w, wp, wt; Also planted in some restorations; Bx, sf; -    Osmunda cinnamomea is a fern from the end of stout, fibrous, rhizome.  Leaves in rosettes; 60-120 cm long, young leaf stalk densely wooly, sterile blades oblong, pinnate, to 30 cm wide, tip pointed, leaflets (pinnae), 15-25 per side, stalkless, narrowly oblong, to 15 cm long, 3 cm wide, deeply pinnately lobed, tips blunt to pointed.  […]
Osmunda claytoniana interrupted fern; (flowering fern)* Osmundaceae OSCL2; Bx, pb; Q, cu; R, an, cp, ev, d, gb, h, r, sv, w; Possibly also planted in restoration sites. -    Osmunda claytoniana is a fern from the end of a stout, fibrous rhizome.  Leaves in a large rosette, to 1.2 m tall, to 30 cm wide, once pinnate, leaflets (pinnae) deeply lobed, lobes shorter and appearing coarser than those of O. cinnamomea, tips blunt; Spore cases on fertile pinnae 1-5 pairs, along middle part of leaf stalk, […]
Osmunda regalis royal fern; (flowering fern)* Osmundaceae OSRE; Bx, br, pb, vc; Q, a, I, j; R, cn, ev, gb, gr, h, is, lp, mc, ow, sp, t, wp, w; Also (possibly) planted in some restorations; Bx, sf; Q, a; -    Osmunda regalis is a fern from a thick rhizome that often forms black, wiry mounds of old stalk bases; emerging fronds reddish or waxy.  Leaves in rosette-like clusters; 50-180 m long, stalks blackish, wiry, blade to 50 cm wide, twice pinnate, coarse, leaflets (pinnae) 5-7 per side, ultimate leaflets widely spaced, 7-10 per side, to […]
Pellaea atropurpurea purple cliff-brake Adiantaceae PEAT; NY, rr; -    Pellaea atropurpurea is a fern, from a densely short-branched, wooly rhizome.  Leaves tufted, evergreen 20-40 cm long; leaf stalk 1-23 cm long, shorter than blade, wiry, stiff, dark purplish, finely hairy; blade once or twice pinnate, pinnae 5-11 pairs, short-stalked, with 3-11 leaflets 1-7.5 cm long, 0.5-1 cm wide, axis and leaflet stalks dark, wiry, […]
Polypodium virginianum common polypody Polypodiaceae Bx, pb; R; -    Polypodium virginianum is a fern from a branching, scaly rhizome, forming colonies.  Leaves evergreen, arising singly from along rhizome, to 40 cm tall, leaf stalk to 15 cm, base scaly, blade to 6 cm wide, pinnately divided to midrib, oblong, tip narrowed and pointed, base blunt, midrib slightly scaly, lobes, 12-20 per side, to 0.7 […]
Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern Aspleniaceae POAC2; Bx, pb, wv; Q, cu; R, cl, d, gb, h, lt, r; Also planted in restorations. Q, a; -     Polystichum acrostichoides is a fern from a short rhizome.  Leaves tufted, evergreen, 30-75 cm long, stalk much shorter than blade; blade 5-12 cm wide, once pinnate, leaflets alternate, 20-35 per side, upper surface leathery, dark green, lower surface pale, scaly-hairy, lobed at base on upper side only; erect when young, becoming prostrate later in season, […]
Pteridium aquilinum bracken Dennstaedtiaceae PTAQ; Bx, pb; Q, cu; K, p; R, ah, cb, cp, cs, d, ev, h, lp, pm, ro, sm, sv, t;  -    Pteridium aquilinum is a long-lived perennial fern to 1 m (or more) tall, clonal from extensive branching, hairy rhizomes, deeper rhizomes may be 2.5 cm diameter, roots may be associated with mycorrhizal fungi especially in very acid soils.  Leaves emerging in May; arise singly, from smaller, shallower rhizomes, on a stiff, erect stalk, 30-70 cm […]
Thelypteris hexagonoptera broad beech fern Aspleniaceae THHE; Bx, pb; Q, cu; R, gb, r; -     Thelypteris hexagonoptera is a fern to 80 cm tall, from a slender, creeping, branching scaly rhizome.  Leaves deciduous, arising singly; leaf stalk hairy, somewhat scaly below, smooth above; blade twice pinnate, to 40 cm long, broadly triangular in outline, midrib winged, leaflets 10-15, to 7 cm wide, the lowest are the largest, midribs broadly winged, […]
Thelypteris noveboracensis New York fern Aspleniaceae THNO; Bx, pb, vc, wv; Q; cu; R, cl, gb, sv; Also planted in restorations: Bx, br, rd; NY, iw, tr; Q, a, cu; K, fs; R, pr (Wenskus 2004). - Thelypteris noveboracensis is a fern to 90 cm tall, aggressively colonial from a dark brown, slender, branching rhizome.  Leaves deciduous, yellow-green, in small tufts from tips of rhizome branches, stalk 12-20 cm long, dark, scaly at base, slightly hairy; blade once pinnate-pinnatifid, to 15 cm wide, tapering sharply at both ends, leaf axis green, leaflets stalkless, […]
Thelypteris palustris marsh fern Aspleniaceae THPA; Bx, pb; Q, cu, i, j; K, fs; R, cp, gb, h, t, wt; -     Thelypteris palustris is a fern from a slender, creeping rhizome, colonial.  Leaves arising singly along the rhizome; to 80 cm long, stalk to 35 cm long, on sterile leaves, to 70 cm on fertile leaves (longer than blade), black at base, smooth; blade to 40 cm long, 20 cm wide, tip tapered, base slightly narrowed, […]
Thelypteris simulata  (Parathelypteris s.) Massachusetts fern Aspleniaceae THSI; Q, a, cu (Greller 1985), j (NY Flora Assoc.1990);  -    Thelypteris simulata  is a fern from a creeping rhizome.  Leaves arising in small clusters from rhizome tips, to 50 cm long, 15 cm wide; stalk to 35 cm, base pale brown, slightly scaly, yellow-green above; blade once pinnate-pinnately lobed, leaflets tapered at both ends, lobed almost to midrib, lobes blunt-tipped.  Spore cases along veins, kidney-shaped (Cobb […]
Woodsia obtusa blunt cliff-fern Aspleniaceae WOOB; Bx, pb; NY ct, hb, rr, tr; -     Woodsia obtusa is a fern to 55 cm tall (usually less than 20 cm), from a scaly rhizomes.  Leaves in tufts, stalk very short, brittle, base orange, yellow above, somewhat glandular-hairy; white-hairy and scaly when young; blade narrow, to 10 cm wide, twice pinnate-pinnately lobed, midrib hairy, scaly, leaflets 13-18 per side, widely spaced along […]
Woodwardia areolata (Lorinseria a.) netted chain-fern Blechnaceae WOAR; Q, j; R, ah, ev, gb, h, pm, ro, t, wp; -     Woodwardia areolata is a fern from a creeping rhizome about 0.3 cm thick.  Leaves arising singly; 30-80 cm long, stalk pale, about as long as blade (much like sensitive fern but smaller); blade 10-17 cm wide, deeply pinnately lobed, nearly pinnately compound near base, coarse, segments 7-10 per side, 1-2 cm wide, glossy, margins very […]
Woodwardia virginica Virginia chain fern Blechnaceae WOVI; R, ev; -    Woodwardia virginica is a fern from a creeping rhizome, 0.6-1 cm thick.  Leaves closely spaced; to 1.4 m long, leaf stalk longer than blade, purple-brown, shiny, swollen near base; blade to 50 cm long, 25 cm wide, pinnate-pinnately lobed, tip long-tapered, base tapered somewhat, leaflets 15-20 per side, narrow, tapered at both ends, pointing upward, […]



Equisetum arvense field horsetail Equisetaceae EQAR; Bx, br, pb, rd, vc, wv; NY; Q, cu, i, j, ri, tl, wl; K, fl; R, c, ca, cp, cs, e, fk, gb, gr, jl, js, jw, k, lp, pm, ro, t, w, wp, wt; - Equisetum arvense is a cryptogram, perennial herb, extensively colonial from slender, dark, branching, tuber-bearing underground stems (rhizomes) that can be up to 1.5 m deep and up to 100 m long; new stems can arise from rhizome fragments or tubers; sterile stems to 50 cm tall, green, hollow, thin, rough-textured, jointed, with whorls of leafless, […]
Equisetum hyemale rough scouring rush Equisetaceae EQHY; Q, tl; R, c, ca, sb; -      Equisetum hyemale is a cryptogram, perennial evergreen herb, 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 […]


Ground Pines / Club Mosses

Diphasiastrum digitatum (Lycopodium d.; L. complanatum var. flabelliforme)  ground cedar; fan clubmoss Lycopodiaceae LYDI; R, gb, sv; -   Diphasiastrum digitatum is a perennial evergreen clubmoss 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, tips pointed […]