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Written By Karl VonBerg.

Posted on January 31st, 2020.

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The cold of winter kills off the sign of many plants that lay dormant under the snow. But there are telltale signs that stick up above the snow for us to discover.

Ferns tend to die, turn brown and vanish under the winter snow. But some can leave signs behind that let you know where they were and where they will be this coming spring. Like these beady stalks:

image1These are the spore stalks (fertile stalks which grow separately from the fronds) from the Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis). Ferns produce spores rather than seeds. The spores are released from the little beads on the stalk the following spring.


Beady spore cases of the Sensitive Fern.

These spore stalks give the fern its other name “Bead Fern”.

This fern gets its name from its sensitivity to frost and drought. At the slightest frost the fronds turn black and die. It grows in wet areas, but when these areas dry up the fern will die.

Sensitive Fern is fairly common. You can hunt for it when you get out for a winter hike. Grab your phone or camera, check out how to take good winter pics on My Woodlot, and then as you walk the woods and fields, look for these spore stalks. You will notice they tend to be in open areas, where it is too wet for trees to grow. For this reason, it’s a good idea to wear waterproof footwear.


These ferns grow in wet open areas where it is too wet for trees to grow.

If you find these Bead Fern then make a point to head back to the same spot in May and June to check out the new fronds starting to grow. Seeing the changes in plants through the seasons can be rewarding as you discover subtle and not so subtle changes.

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