Cut-leaved grape fern is variable in appearance. The plant photographed shows the lacy leaf margin that gives this fern its name, but some plants have smooth-edged leaves. (The lower photo shows a plant that is probably a smooth-edged variety of this fern.) Both types can be confused with the rattlesnake fern. Cut-leaved fern has leathery, evergreen fronds, in contrast to the thinner, deciduous fronds of the rattlesnake fern. Autumn is a good time to hunt for the cut-leaved grape fern, as the fronds are still bright green when most plants are turning brown. In winter, cut-leaved grape fern turns bronzy-green.
Grape ferns are named for the round, clustered spore cases, which have some resemblance to a bunch of grapes.
- Synonyms: Sceptridium dissectum
- Family: adder's-tongue (Ophioglossaceae)
- Habitat: woods, fields, often in disturbed sites
- Height: 6-15 inches
- Location of spores: separate fertile section of frond, which branches from the sterile portion near the ground
- Petiole (leaf stalk): light green, smooth, fragile
- Growth pattern: single leaf
- Persistence: green through the winter, but deciduous in summer
- Origin: native
A cut-leaf grape fern plant has only a single frond. The sterile part is in the center of the photo. In fall, mature plants grow a single fertile section, which stands on a long stalk above the sterile part. In this photo, the base of the fertile section's stalk is visible in back.
Fertile portion of the same fern.
Most cut-leaf grape ferns have lacy edges on their fronds. . .
. . . but some lack the lacy edges. This fern is probably a variety of cut-leaf grape fern, Botrychium dissectum var. obliquum.