Tag Archives: Ozark ferns

Special Sensitive Fern Find

When we first moved here, I came across a fern I didn’t recognize growing along the creek. It turned out I’d come across sensitive ferns.

There ferns got their name because they wither away at even the lightest frost. They like it warm and wet.

High water destroyed the ferns. Searching along the creek turned up no more sensitive ferns. There were other ferns to look at and admire.

On a walk up the road to a spring I came across another sensitive fern. Even though I’d not seen one for several years, it was unmistakable.

sensitive fern plant
Buried in grass and sedge, surrounded by blooming water cress, the unique color of a sensitive fern makes it easy to spot. This plant was on a hump next to the fence so it wasn’t growing in the water, but the soil was wet.

Sensitive ferns are larger than most reaching two feet high. Their fronds have a typical fern arrangement except for all the webbing or wings. The color is a spring green.

Unfortunately this fern was next to a culvert which the road department replaced. It got buried or dug up or both. Again the sensitive fern became only a memory.

The spring is cold water and flows year round feeding a small wetland area. Cattails, willows, spearmint and more live in the area. I pull on my boots and wade through from time to time.

sensitive fern frond
The winged effect is strongest toward the tip of a sensitive fern frond. A frond is one to two feet long and a foot wide toward the base.

This land is now part of a land trust. The family lives in the city. They come out to hunt turkeys and deer. And this spring they came out for a fun weekend. Fun for them.

The group ran their four wheelers and pickups up and down the creek and across the edges of the wetland. From the depth of the ruts, the four wheeler must have sunk almost too far to get out again.

My normal path was in ruins. I tried to make a new one and came close to leaving a boot in the mud. Finally I approached the fence where the water came in from the culvert. It’s easy to slip through between the barbs there.

The color was first to make me look. A line of sensitive ferns was growing strung along the fence. Maybe this time the ferns will survive for years.

Meet more Ozark wild plants in Exploring the Ozark Hills.