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Celebrating Ferns Poster

Ferns were already very old when they flourished over 300 million years ago. Plants with fern-like leaves and ferns were so abundant in ancient tropical swamp forests that this time has been called “The Age of Ferns.” Modern-day ferns are exquisitely diverse in size, shape and leaf-form; from magnificent 30-foot tall tree ferns to the diminutive hairy water-clover, with its 4-leaf clover leaves. There are approximately 380 kinds of ferns in North America and most of them can be found on the national forests and grasslands. Ferns are adapted to nearly all environments - forests, deserts, tropics, alpine and aquatic. Similar to flowering plants, ferns have roots, stems and leaves. However, unlike flowering plants, ferns do not have flowers or seeds; instead, they reproduce sexually by tiny spores or reproduce vegetatively, as illustrated by the walking fern. Experience the world of ferns anew and delight in the outstanding beauty and variety of our ferns.

Artist: Steve Buchanan

Plant of the Week

American Hart's Tongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum. American Hart's Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum)

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina. Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

Pacific Mosquitofern (Azolla filiculoides). Pacific Mosquitofern (Azolla filiculoides)

Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Marchantia (Marchantia polymorpha). Marchantia (Marchantia polymorpha)

Appalachian Bristle Fern (Trichomanes boschianum). Appalachian Bristle Fern (Trichomanes boschianum)

Fern Links

Fern Societies

Fern Information

Regional Information

Ferns of the National Forests in Alaska brochure cover.

Ferns of the National Forests in Alaska (PDF, 4.2 MB)

Ferns abound in Alaska's two national forests, the Chugach and the Tongass, which are situated on the southcentral and southeastern coast respectively. These forests contain myriad habitats where ferns thrive. Most showy are the ferns occupying the forest floor of temperate rainforest habitats. However, ferns grow in nearly all non-forested habitats such as beach meadows, wet meadows, alpine meadows, high alpine, and talus slopes. The cool, wet climate highly influenced by the Pacific Ocean creates ideal growing conditions for ferns.

This brochure was prepared by the Forest Service, Alaska Region Botany program. Text, diagrams and photographs by Mary Stensvold unless otherwise noted.

Books Our Botanists Use

From our feature Books Our Botanists Use, we list a number of references about ferns and fern allies.

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Mosses Lichens and Ferns of Northwest North America. Vitt, D. H., J. E. Marsh and R. B. Bovey. 2007. Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Plants of the Tahoe Basin: Flowering Plants, Trees, and Ferns. 1999. Michael Graf. UC Press.

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Field Manual of Ferns and Fern Allies of the United States and Canada. 1985. David B. Lellinger. Smithsonian Institution Press.

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Field Guide to Ferns and their Related Families of Northeastern and Central North America: Peterson Field Guide. 2005. B. Cobb, E. Farnsworth and C. Lowe. .Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Wildflowers and Ferns of Indiana Forests: A Field Guide. 2012. Michael M Homoya. Indiana University Press.

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Field Guide to Ferns and their Related Families of Northeastern and Central North America: Peterson Field Guide. 2005. B. Cobb, E. Farnsworth and C. Lowe. .Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Ferns of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide. 2000. Gil Nelson. Pineapple Press.

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Ferns of the Smokies. 2005. M. Evans. Great Smoky Mountains Association.

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Field Guide to the Ferns and other Pteridophytes of Georgia. 1986. L.H. Snyder, Jr. & J.G. Bruce. University of GA Press.

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Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky. 2004. Thomas G. Barnes and S. Wilson Francis. The University Press of Kentucky.

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Ferns and Fern Allies of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. Judith D. Springer, Mark L. Daniels and Mare Nazaire. Forward by Bruce E. Babbitt.

Historical Fern Books

These books are classics, full of valuable information about fern morphology, details about fern species, and fern culture. Many of these books contain absolutely beautiful illustrations, both in color and black and white.

Other Fern Books

  • Barnes, T. G., and S. W. Francis. 2004. Wildflowers and ferns of Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
  • Billington, C. 1952. Ferns of Michigan. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin no. 32, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
  • Blomquist, H. L. 1934. Ferns of North Carolina. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
  • Brooks, K. L. 1979. A Catskill flora and economic botany: I. Pteridophyta, the ferns and fern allies. New York State Museum Bulletin Number 438. The University of the State of New York, State Education Department, Albany, New York.
  • Cobb, B., E. Farnsworth, and C. Lowe. 2005. A field guide to the ferns of Northeastern and Central North America. Houghton, Mifflin.
  • Cody, W. J., and D. M. Britton. 1989. Ferns and fern Allies of Canada. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Publication 1829/E, Ottawa, Canada.
  • Cranfill, R. 1980. Ferns and fern-allies of Kentucky. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series Number 1, Frankfort, Kentucky.
  • Dean, B. E. 1969. Ferns of Alabama. Southern University Press, Birmingham Alabama.
  • Eaton, D. C. 1893. The ferns of North America, Volume 1. Bradlee Whidden Publisher, Boston.
  • Evans, A. 2005. Ferns and fern allies of the Smokies. Great Smoky Mountains Association. Gaitlinberg, Tennessee.
  • Foster, F. 1984. Ferns to know and grow. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Frankel, E. 1981. Ferns: a natural history. The Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro, Vermont.
  • Frye, T. C. 1934. Ferns of the Northwest. Third printing 1956. Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon.
  • Grillos, Steve J. 1966. Ferns and fern allies of California. California Natural History Guides Series, No. 16, University of California Press, Berkeley, California.
  • Hoshizaki, B. and R. Moran. 2001. A fern growers manual. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Jermy, C., and J. Camus. 1991. The illustrated field guide to ferns and allied plants of the British Isles. Natural History Museum Publications, London.
  • Jonsell, B. 2000. Flora Nordica, Volume 1, Lycopodiaceae to Polygonaceae. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm.
  • Kaye, R., 1968. Hardy ferns. Faber, London.
  • Key, J. S., 1982. Field guide to Missouri ferns. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, Missouri.
  • Large, M. F., and J. E. Braggins. 2004. Tree Ferns. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Lellinger, D. B., 1985. A field manual of the ferns and fern-allies of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Lellinger, D. B., 2002. A modern multilingual glossary for taxonomic pteridology. Pteridologia 3: The American Fern Society.
  • Lord, T. R., and H. J. Travis. 2006. The ferns and fern allies of Pennsylvania. Department of Biology, Penn State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania.
  • Mazzeo, P. M. 1972. Ferns and fern allies of Shenandoah National Park. Bulletin Number Six, Shenandoah Natural History Association, Luray, Virginia.
  • Mehltreter, K., L. R. Walker, and J. M. Sharpe, Editors. 2010. Fern ecology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • Mickel, J. T. 2003. Ferns for American gardens. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Mickel, J. T. 1979. How to know the ferns and fern allies. The Pictured Key Nature Series, W. C. Brown Co. Publishers, Dubuque, Iowa.
  • Mickel, J. T., and A. R. Smith. 2004. The Pteridophytes of Mexico. Part 1: New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, New York.
  • Mickel, J. T., and A. R. Smith. 2004. The Pteridophytes of Mexico. Part 2: New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, New York.
  • Moran, R. C. 2004. A natural history of ferns. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Nelson, G. 2000. The ferns of Florida: a reference and field guide. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida.
  • Neyland, R. A. 2011. Field guide to the ferns & lycophytes of Louisiana, including East Texas, Southern Arkansas, and Mississippi. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • Ogden, E. B. 1948. The ferns of Maine. University of Maine at Orono Press: University of Maine studies, 2nd ser., #62.
  • Ogden, E. C. 1981. Field guide to Northeastern ferns. New York State Museum Bulletin Number 444. The University of the State of New York, State Education Department, Albany, New York.
  • Øllgaard, B. 1993. Scandinavian ferns: a natural history of the ferns, clubmosses, quillworts, and horsetails of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Rhodos, Copenhagen.
  • Olsen, S. 2007. Encyclopedia of garden ferns. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Page, C. N. 1997. The ferns of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Palmer, D. D. 2003. Hawai'i’s ferns and fern allies. University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu.
  • Peck, J. H. 1982. Ferns and fern allies of the driftless area of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Museum Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Petrik-Ott, A. J. 1979. The pteridophytes of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Nova Hedwigia Beiheft, No. 61, J. Cramer, Germany.
  • Potter, H., F., Thorne, and L. Thorne. 1989. Henry Potter's Guide to Hybrid Ferns of the Northeast. Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences. Woodstock, Vt.
  • Ranker, T., and Haufler C. 2008. Biology and evolution of ferns and lycophytes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Rickard, M. 2002. The plantfinder's guide to garden ferns. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • Rickard, M. 2005. Gardening with ferns. Horticulture Publications, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Sacks, O. W. 2002. Oaxaca Journal. National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.
  • Smith, A. R., and W. H. Wagner, Jr. 1992. editors Pteridophytes.Pp. 11 - 342 in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. Flora of North America, north of Mexico, Part 2: Pteridophytes and gymnosperms. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Snyder, L. H., Jr. and J. G. Bruce. 2003. Field guide to the ferns and other pteridophytes of Georgia. The University of Georgia Press, Athens and London, Georgia.
  • Taylor, C. W. 1984. Arkansas ferns and fern allies. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Taylor, T. 1970. Pacific Northwest ferns and their allies. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario.
  • Theiret, J. W. 1980. Louisiana ferns and fern allies. Lafayette Natural History Museum in conjunction with the University of Southwest Louisiana. Lafayette, Louisiana.
  • Tryon, R. M. and A. F. Tryon. 1982. Ferns and allied plants with special reference to tropical America. Springer-Verlag, New York.
  • Tryon, A. F. and R. C. Moran. 1997. The ferns and allied plants of New England. Natural History of New England Series, Center for Biological Conservation, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, Massachusetts.
  • Tryon, R. M. 1954. Ferns and fern allies of Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Vannorsdall, H. 1956. Ferns of Ohio. Curtis Book Store, Wilmington, Ohio.
  • Wagner, David H., 1978. Systematics of Polystichum in western North America north of Mexico; Pteridologia Number 1. The American Fern Society.
  • Wherry, E., 1972. The southern fern guide. Doubleday, Garden City, New York.
  • Yarborough, S. and A. Powell, 2002. Ferns and fern allies of the Trans-Pecos and adjacent areas. Texas Tech University Press, Texas.

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