Dryopteris fragrans (Fragrant Fern)

Plant Info
Also known as: Fragrant Wood Fern, Fragrant Shield Fern, Fragrant Cliff Fern
Genus:Dryopteris
Family:Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; often on limestone; cliffs, talus slopes
Fruiting season:summer
Plant height:3 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound

[photo of fronds] Leaves (fronds) are compound, evergreen, narrowly elliptic in outline, tapering at both ends, 3 to 12 inches long, up to 2 inches wide, with 15 to 30 pairs of branches (pinnae) that are mostly opposite and may be crowded and overlapping along the central stalk (rachis). Pinnae are mostly oblong in outline with 6 to 12 pairs of leaflets (pinnules), and scattered brown scales along the midvein. Pinnules are irregularly lobed or with rounded teeth. Veins are branched and forked.

[photo of pinnae, pinnules, glands and scales] Pinnules are variably covered in short-stalked glands, especially along the edges and on the underside. Stems are grooved, also glandular, with tan to rusty colored scales that are largest near the base, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. The plant grows in an asymmetrical clump, the fronds mostly erect but can spread in all directions. Old, shriveled stems persist to the next season.

Spores: Fruit type: spores on leaf

[photo of whitish indusium] The sori (group of spores) mature in mid-summer and are found on the underside of the leaf. They are circular and arranged at vein tips. A large, kidney-shaped, translucent tissue (indusium) covers the spores and is attached on inner curve. Indusium are often crowded and overlap. Spores ripen to dark brown or black.

[photo of mature, rusty colored indusium] The indusium is initially pale green to whitish and turns brown to rusty colored with age.  Not all leaves have spores and there is no significant, visible difference between fertile and sterile leaves.

Notes:

The smallest of the Dryopteris species, Fragrant Fern gets its name from the aromatic glands, most noticeable when fresh and sometimes described as a “fruity” fragrance. This characteristic, along with the rocky habitat, large scales all along the stem, the large, persistent indusium that turns from whitish to rusty brown, and the persistent, shriveled old fronds make this fairly easy to identify. At a casual glance it may resemble Rusty Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis), with which it often grows side-by-side, but which is typically smaller, is densely hairy but not glandular, has hair-like indisium, and lacks the persistent, old fronds.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.