Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rare Fern

Northern Adder's Tongue Fern, Ophioglossom pusillum, is a very small, 'un-fern-like', fern, which is not often found because it is so hard to see among the grasses and low vegetation it typically grows with. I have been a bit keeping my eyes open for it but never really expected to find it.

Last Sunday I went to one of my favourite natural areas, the Eagle's Nest Trail near Calabogie, and trudged up the trail well past the actual lookout. I was determined not to slow down until I was past the lookout because every other time I've gone up there I've gotten sidetracked by the rock face and the Woodsias and such and never gotten past them. This time I kept going, in spite of the heat, the big and hungry deer flies and the lure of the many small cliffs all along the way. I did side-track a bit, following a small side trail to what is likely a blueberry picking area, but didn't see much there so went back to the main trail. After a couple of hours I was getting a bit bored! The trail is actually somewhat barren because the ATV-ers damage everything in their path, and what they don't destroy they cover with mud, so very few interesting plants survive there. Anyway, by this time I was hungry and decided to stop at the next possibly interesting spot and have my sandwich. I came to a tiny bog and pushed through the undergrowth to get to it. There were some orchids, not in bloom yet, and a nice tree to sit on for lunch. The deer flies were so bad I sprayed my hands and neck (the only exposed parts of me other than my face) again, figuring that if nothing else, they might get their feet stuck in the spray, and unwrapped my sandwich. I took one bite and glanced down at my foot and saw something. 'What did I step on?' I wondered.

I looked more closely and discovered I was in a fairly large patch of Northern Adder's Tongues. What a surprise! What a shock!

The plants were mostly quite small, only about 4" high, but some were taller, and the fertile fronds extended up to about 12" in some cases. There were many plants in about three large patches. I counted to 50 in the first patch and stopped counting. They were growing  in the crevices in rocks which stuck up just above the surface of the tiny bog, and among various grasses, sedges, orchids, Twinflower and other low things. They were indeed hard to see because of being the same colour as the grasses.

I don't remember what my sandwich tasted like.

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