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Wonderfully, Weird Ferns

Updated on April 20, 2020

Where the Red Fern Grows

When we think of ferns more often than not people will think of the book, Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. The following is a quote from that book:

“There between the graves, a beautiful red fern had sprung up from the rich

mountain soil. It was fully two feet tall and its long red leaves had reached out

in rainbow arches curved over the graves of my dogs.”

Raymond A. Foss Poem

When we begin to question why the author titled his book Where the Red Fern Grows, may be the first time we think about ferns.

Raymond A. Foss writes this about ferns:

“The necks of the ferns

The fiddleheads opening

Like the wings of butterflies

The blood making them rigid

The ferns unfurling

Like massive sails of undergrowth

Warming even without sunlight

Filtered in the mist of the morning

Green an endless sight”

Wonderfully, Weird Fern Forest

Wonderfully, Weird Ferns

We find lurking in the shade, in the damp soil, beneath the canopy of trees, along the sides of rivers these wonderfully, weird, but fascinating plants, we call ferns. Ferns reproduce with spores instead of seeds. There are between 9,000 and 15, 000 different species.

Fern Forest Nature Center

In Southern Florida there is a serene nature center called Fern Forest Nature Center. It is a place where you can view; Marsh fern, Whisk fern, Bracken fern, Resurrection fern, Royal fern and Leather fern. It is located in Broward County, the city of Coconut Creek. It has trails ranging from 1/3 mile to a mile in length. There is an entrance boardwalk, butterfly bridge and prairie overlook. The trails are Cypress Creek Trail with a boardwalk, the Maple Walk Trail that takes you through a red Maple swamp 1/3 a mile long (boots suggested), Wetland Wander Trail is an 1/8-mile-long foot trail that leads you to Prairie Overlook Trail and Prairie Overlook Trail takes you through a one-mile open prairie.

Marsh Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center
Marsh Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center | Source

Marsh Fern

As you travel along be searching for these ferns:

Marsh Fern:

  • · Small to medium in size
  • · Typically, rich yellow-green in color
  • · Has many fronds
  • · Leaves are slightly rolled with a billowy, lacy texture
  • · More tolerant to direct sunlight/does well in partial shade
  • · Is hardy against disease and bugs

Whisk Fern
Whisk Fern | Source

Whisk Fern:

  • · Leafless and rootless
  • · Whisk-like
  • · Branches upward
  • · Is a living fossil
  • · Had scale-like appendages (dots) called “enations”
  • · Lives on other plants

Bracken Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center
Bracken Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center | Source

Bracken Fern:

  • · Large and coarse
  • · Triangular fronds
  • · Likes well-drained soil
  • · Usually grows on sides of hills
  • · Is a living fossil

Resurrection Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center
Resurrection Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center | Source

Resurrection Fern:

    • · Grows on top of other plants (does not steal nutrients)
    • · 4 to 12 inches in length
    • · Can die and resurrect when it gets water
    • · Favors oak trees

Royal Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center
Royal Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center | Source

Royal Fern:

    • · Fertile (flowering fern)
    • · 3’ to 5’ tall
    • · Light green, yellowish-tan or brown
    • · Wide spreading
    • · Smooth leaves
    • · Likes full sun to light shade
    • · Shrub-like appearance
    • · Leaves 3 ½” long to 2 ½” across
    • · Leaflets are not directly across from each other
    • · Stout

Leather Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center
Leather Fern at Fern Forest Nature Center | Source

Leather Fern:

    • · Deep green
    • · Leathery fronds
    • · Loves the shade
    • · Evergreen
    • · Found in brackish and freshwater marshes
    • · 4 to 8 feet tall

Visiting Southern Florida?

Fern Forest National Center is a refreshing place to learn about ferns, get a little exercise, sun, and just relax. Next time you’re in Southern Florida, be sure and visit this Forest of Fern.


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