Sunday, April 10, 2016

After All These Years

After almost 13 years of being on this 2-acre property, I thought I’d seen every plant that came with the property. I have walked every inch of it over the years, searching for good plants to appreciate as well as looking for bad ones to remove. This week, I found something that I’d never seen before: Southern adder’s tongue fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum).

Southern adder’s tongue fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum)

I had heard of this plant before - a friend has it - and so had an inkling of what it was when I came upon it on a high humped area in a ditch that occasionally gets flooded during heavy rains.  Adder’s tongue fern produces individual leaves (a frond, really) and sometimes a separate spore stalk (one per frond). Not all fronds have the spore stalk. I actually found a colony of fronds and probably less than 25% of them had spore stalks (known as a fertile frond).

Ophioglossum vulgatum

Georgia actually has several species of adder’s tongue fern throughout the state, but this one is found only above the Fall Line.  According to the Field Guide to the Ferns and Other Pteridophytes of Georgia, Ophioglossum vulgatum is found in floodplains along streams and other areas. That explains why it likes this spot!

Later I also found a smaller colony about 50 feet away in a drier area of the woods.  Again, only a few of them had fertile fronds. So why am I just finding this plant? I don’t think I could have brought it in with other plant material because I don’t plant many things into the woods, and I never would have planted them in the middle of a drainage ditch (or even near it).

Ophioglossum vulgatum

One source that I found said that the plant can go for years without producing a frond. I suppose that might be the answer. We’ve had a couple of wet years. Perhaps the plant decided that conditions were right for an appearance. 

Well, I’m glad to have found it. Now I wonder what other things might pop up?


  1. I love making new discoveries in my woodland. What a great find!

  2. This seems to be an abundant year for them. I'm finding them where I've never seen them before--some in really dry conditions. Happy plant surprises are always fun!

  3. What an exciting find! I need to pay closer attention to see if I have any of these on our property.