Members and friends of the Parry Sound Nature Club checked out various species of ferns on Saturday, Sept. 15 during a hike led by Rick Snider.
Rare species discovered on fern hike.
Rick Snider points out an Intermediate Wood Fern.
Catherine Scissons photo
Rick previously scouted out a few choice sites for seeing different species of ferns in the area. A group of about 15 people participated, and in total, 20 different species of ferns were found, some of which are actually quite rare. The weather was cooperative, although a little on the cool side in the early morning. Since this area has not yet experienced a hard frost, most of the fern species in this area were still in good shape for viewing.
Some of the more interesting species of ferns found (although all are interesting in their own way) included the Virginia Chain Fern, which has a small pocket of abundance in the Parry Sound/Muskoka area but is actually considered an Atlantic Coastal species. The Leathery Grape Fern is a rare plant in this area named for its fruiting stalk, which resembles a cluster of small grapes. Ferns vary widely in their hardiness from the Sensitive Fern that is eliminated by the first frost, to the Christmas Fern, which stays green into December, to the Grape Ferns and Intermediate Wood Fern which remain evergreen. One interesting fact was brought up about the very common Bracken Fern. Apparently, it has cancer-inducing agents that have been shown to cause stomach cancer in cows that have eaten it. It is probably not a good idea for people to be handling it any more than necessary, either.
Fern species can be very difficult to differentiate, and discerning one species from another often comes down to very fine points of leaf structure or differences in spores or fruiting bodies. Participants found some interesting ways to remember characteristics of certain species, such as the “hairy armpits” of the Cinnamon Fern and “hairy legs” of the Hay-Scented Fern. When one is not an expert in the field, it’s best to find simple and vivid ways to jog the memory!
Many thanks to Rick Snider for his expertise and guidance, and for his efforts beforehand in locating so many different species of ferns. It was a delightful way to spend a September Saturday morning.