Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Onoclea sensibilis L.
ONOCLEACEAE (Sensitive Fern Family)
EtymologyOnoclea, from the Greek: onos = vessel + kleio = closed, in reference to the beads of the fertile fronds; sensibilis is Latin for sensitive.
Synonyms (Common Name)Bead Fern
DescriptionOne of New England's most common wetland ferns, sensitive fern is a medium (2-3') fern that frequently grows in large colonies. It is bright green and has once-cut -- or pinnate-- sterile fronds that have netted venation. The fertile fronds consist of hard, dark brown, beadlike structures on a rigid stalk that persist through the winter. Sensitive fern gets its name because the sterile fronds die at the first frost.
Wetland indicator statusFACW
Plant Height.5-2 feet
LeavesSterile and fertile fronds different. Sterile frond: triangular, blade 7-16" tall and 6-14" wide, once-cut and deeply lobed so that most of the leaflets (pinnae) are connected along the stalk (only the lowest 1 or 2 pairs are separate); 8-12 pairs of leaflets, opposite, entire margins, netted venation. Fertile frond: shorter (to 12"), twice-cut with upright leaflets divided into subleaflets (pinnules) that are modified into small, hard, beadlike structures.
Fruiting PeriodJune-October.
HabitatWooded and open swamps, marshes, wet meadows; any damp or wet soil.
RangeNewfoundland to Minnesota, south to Florida, Arkansas and Texas.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett