"Tree Finder" by May T. Watts

The people in my family are big fans of the Finders pocket field guides. My dad introduced them to me when I was a boy, and now Ordinary Spouse and I enjoy using them with our girls. Perhaps the best known book is the Tree Finder by May Theilgaard Watts, but there are other books in the series. We have the ones on animal tracks, wildflowers, trees in winter, and ferns.

Recently, Ordinary Spouse and I started thinking that it was time to pull out the Fern Finder (by Anne C. Hallowell and Barbara G. Hallowell). It was clear that ferns could be quite prolific at Laurelville, but we really had no sense of the diversity. So about a week ago on my day off, I spent an afternoon in the woods.

I had lingering memories of working on fern identification with Dad and only achieving mixed results. After only a little while in the woods, I remembered why. If you can’t find the reproductive structures on the fern, you’ll likely have some difficulty with the identification – at least using the guidebook that we have. By the end of the afternoon, I was getting more adept at identifying those parts.

Here are the ferns I found…

(For those of you reading this in email, I apologize if you aren’t able to see the slideshows.)


Christmas fern

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Note the sori (spore-producing structures) on the back of the blade in two of the close-ups.


Intermediate woodfern

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The sori are obvious on the back of these woodferns, as well.


New York fern

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I haven’t found examples of “fertile fronds” for New York ferns (fronds with spores, as opposed to the “sterile fronds” without), but the ferns are prolific around here, and fairly distinctive.


Ostrich Fern

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Named for the resemblance of the blade to ostrich feathers. The fertile fronds are smaller, stiff, and woody.


Interrupted fern

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Note how the reproductive parts (the dried and brown portion) “interrupts” the rest of the blade.

It’s interesting to me how the fertile portion of many of these ferns actually looks less remarkable and lush than the sterile portion. Maybe someone with more fern knowledge will provide some insight.


Broad beech fern

Broad beech frondI noticed this fern because of the odd angle of the two lowest pinnae. Also, the rachis (the stem within the blade) has “wings”.


Sensitive fern

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Those are all my fern pictures (for now – there are others yet to be identified). Here are a few more sights in the forest from the last week:

Polyphemus moth

This polyphemus moth was hanging outside my bedroom window.

Fishing spider with egg sac

Mama fishing spider was inside our house. I’m glad we got her out before that egg sac revealed its contents.

Mountain laurel in bloom

The mountain laurel are in bloom right now.

(I had to include that picture. We’re at Laurelville, after all.)

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