Fern Fiddles

The first fern fiddles are emerging from the ground.

The Japanese Holly fern, Cyrtomium falcatum, is always first.

Fronds are specialized leaves growing from underground stems.

They roll out from the base to protect the tiny new leaflets.

Other protection involves scales which drop off after the young fronds emerge.


They are also covered by hairs for defense.


Once these fronds mature, they will be tough enough not to need scales and hairs.


Mature fronds produce spores on their undersides for reproduction.


Here are spots where sporangia were last season. The spores have been released.


I find fern fronds fascinating.


Time Flies while Watching Ferns

This post is a follow-up to to a post from November of 2016.

I am shocked that it has been almost two years!

That fall I reported on a disappearing fern.

One of my favorite babies was disappearing.

Further inspection showed that caterpillar was eating my coveted

Dragon’s tail fern, Aspleniaceae x Ebenoides.

After attempts to save what was left of the little fern,

I decided my best hope for a future for the fern was for future offspring.

I placed the remaining fronds face down on sterile seed-starting mix in a sealed glass jar.

Green slowly appeared months later. This tiny green growth was the gametophyte stage of the fern.

This week, while trapped inside during Hurricane Florence, I notice the first tiny frond.

A fern is born!  In only two short years!

If you are into gardening for the long game, try starting ferns.

It will make watching grass grow seem fast-paced and exciting.


Close Fronds

All the ferns are happy that it is raining.

Autumn Fern / Dryopteris erythrosoroa
Korean Rock fern/ Polystichum tsus-simense
Japanese Holly fern / Crytomium falcatum
wild Chain fern/ Woodwardia areolata
Buckler fern / Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’

My little fronds look refreshed.   I’m happy they’re happy.


Little Fern Forest

I got this idea from a fellow-blogger annamadeit of Flutter and Hum.  She was my first “blogger friend” that I found when I started this blog three years ago this May.  I remember writing to her in excitement that I had finally found some “Plant People.”  If you are reading this you either know what a “plant nut” I am from knowing me personally OR you are a plant nut. Either way, thanks for the views and comments.

We have a giant old pine stump in the middle of my shade garden under the “Miss Robbie” fig tree. I have posted on this spot before in “Barren to Bountiful” ,  https://floweralley.org/2016/11/18/barren-to-bountiful/ which had a double meaning due to the current world crises at the time.  Pay attention folks, FLOWER doesn’t just write about flowers.

I have been placing one of my creations named, Fern Basin, on top of the stump to hide it. Now that it has finally decomposed nicely, I wanted to feature it instead.  Decompostion has created nice little niches into which I plan to tuck tiny bulbs next season.  Until then, I have filled them with garden soil and mushroom compost to let it season and settle.

I dragged a heavy cedar stump from the woods. My grown son had to get it in place.  Then I wandered through the surrounding woods looking for ferns, rocks and interesting objects.  I also found some driftwood along the shore of the river/lake.  The hunt was as much fun as the creation. Win, Win!

I did purchase a Tassel fern/Polystichum polyblephum, some Irish moss/ Sagina subulata and a tiny hosta/ ‘Wrinkle in Time.’

Tassel fern/ Polystichum polyblepharum
Irish moss/ Sagina subulata and ‘Wrinkle in Time’ hosta

This project is near my Fairy Garden which I blogged about last week.  I enjoy creating tiny areas with a theme. It makes it fun to have several projects in mind and constantly add to each. It keeps me on the look-out.

I will continue to work on this.  The newly established plants enjoyed yesterday’s rain.


If I were a fairy..

If I were a fairy, I would live in a big oak tree.

I would have a slate patio to have parties on.


I would have a garden full of tiny flowers like…



Little Lantern ColumbineIMG_7894

Fire Spinner DelospermaIMG_7903

Salvia nemorosa, ‘New Dimension Rose’IMG_7866

Sagina subulata, Irish mossIMG_7879

Wild fernsIMG_7880

with moss and lichens and lovely rocks for my friends to sit on.IMG_7870

I would have an urn full of Lily of the valley and violet blooms.IMG_7872

I would leave out a basket of treasures for children to find.IMG_7867

I would have a bowl full of cool water for my tiny, thirsty friends.IMG_7874

I would have a whirly-gig with the colors of the rainbow to spin in the breeze.IMG_7871

I would have a gazing ball with the colors of the Earth, so I could dream of all the places I have not been…yet.IMG_7865

If I were a fairy, I’d live here.


Wouldn’t you?


S’more Spores

It’s the time of year when plants get ready to go dormant here in North Carolina.

This means in addition to losing leaves, plants set seed or form spores.  This hopefully ensures another generation of plants.

This November is a little unusual because it has been so warm that we still have flowers blooming and bees buzzing.  I have even had second generation seeds germinate and flower this season.

I will take you on a tour of s’more spores.  Seeds will follow in another post.

Sensitive fern/Onoclea sensibilis sends up its own spores on a stick.  These are referred to as beads.


Its fronds are sterile, i.e. do not produce spores.


Chain fern/ Woodwardia areolata has a separate spore bearing structure, also.


Its fronds do not produce spores either.


The Japanese Holly fern/Cyrtomium falcatum has a sporadic spore arrangement.  No pun intended.


Its fronds are evergreen.


Here is one sorus from the Japanese Holly fern under the microscope.


Stay tuned for seeds.


The Disappearing Fern

My first orders of business when I return from a trip are to check on the bunnies


and then to tour my plants to check for any changes.

To my shock and horror, when I peered into the baby fern box


my prized Dragon’s Tail fern/Aspleniaceae x Ebenoides was missing many fronds.

Not whole fronds. The midribs remained sticking out nakedly brown without the lovely green scales.


Something had eaten the Dragon’s Tails down to the bones.

There were droppings left on the dish below.  Evidence.


A hungry caterpillar was feasting on my favorite fern.

I searched the soil before examining each frond.

I found a small green snacker, but knew he was not large enough to produce the poop.


Ah Ha!    Bad, Bad Larva Brown.  He and his little Green Sidekick were escorted outside.

Go pick on a bigger fern you bullies.


I hope little Dragon’s Tail can recover from this shock.


Fern Fiddles

Baby fern fronds are called fiddleheads.


They unfurl from the earth, unrolling and lengthening as they spread out their leaflets.


A cross-section looks like that of a chambered nautilus.



This fiddle is from one of my favorite ferns, the Japanese holly fern/Cyrtomium falcatum. 


One reason I love this fern is its random arrangement of sori on the underside of the fronds.


No nice little rows for this fern.


When the fiddles unfurl, spring has sprung.

Wait for it…

Follow the Flower





My Favorite Fern

My favorite type of fern is the Autumn Fern, also known as the Japanese Shield Fern.

Autumn Ferns
Autumn Ferns

It is my favorite because it is lovely in fall and winter, when most of my other plants are dead or depressingly dormant.  It loves shade and moisture. It needs protection from wind to get this big without damage.

three-foot-long frond
three-foot-long frond


The fronds are bipinnate/twice-cut, which means there are two divisions of leaflets on the frond stem divisions. They are also triangular.


triangular shaped frond
triangular shaped frond

The sori are arranged in neat little rows along underside of the leaflets.

sori in rows
sori in rows

Its species name is Dryopteris erythrosora.   In Latin that means tree/fern/red/sorus.

A sorus is a packet of spores that looks like a rust spot this time of year.

Here are three sori under a microscope.  Each is a complicated system of catapults. The curled arms unfurl and sling the spores away from the parent plant.

empty sori
empty sori “catapults”

Fresh sori are light colored or transparent. These still contain spores.


Spores are not seeds. They only have half the genetic material of the fern. These germinate into tiny “boy and girl” gametophytes,  which then get together and make the big “baby” sporophytes that we call ferns.

This ancient and strange life cycle is called “alternation of generations.”

I look at my ferns and feel a connection with prehistoric life.

Follow the FERN!