One of the ferns that stays with us through winter is my Lil’ Stand Up Fern. This one I found across the pond down the lane.
Without access to all the characteristics that would definitely identify this little fern, my initial ID is that it’s Ebony Spleenwort, Asplenium platyneuron.
Characters gleaned from the photo above include the following:
- pinnae alternate
- pinnae auricled
- pinnae slightly lobed
- blade less than 2 inches wide
- indusia elongate
- blade pinnate
- blade once-divided
If you’re not familiar with the terms used to describe ferns, a $5 guide book would help immensely. Fern Finder by Ann and Barbara Hallowell is small enough to fit in a hip pocket, so it’s easy to take with you.
The way I came to ID this plant is the exact opposite of how you’re supposed to use a dichotomous key, which is how the Fern Finder and many other field guides are presented.
A dichotomous key is used for identification of any number of species. This type of key presents the reader with a series of questions. Each question is provided with only two answers. One answer that fits the specimen is selected. Then, the reader is sent (via page number, icon or link) to the next pertinent question based on their answer to the first question. The selected answer to each successive question will lead the reader closer and closer to the identification of their specimen until they’ve come to find the right species.
In this case I thumbed through the Fern Finder and found a drawing of a fern that looked like my fern. I worked backwards through the key using the characteristics that could be seen in the photo.
The characters that lead me to the Ebony Spleenwort all seemed to match, but the true identification is still pending. Confirmation will have to wait until we can see the whole plant. My Lil’ Standup Fern overwintered just fine. It is one of our green ferns that lasted through winter.
It’s easy to forget about all the characters needed to identify a plant or animal to species when you’re in the field, so take lots of photos, or even better, take a field guide with you on your next outing.