poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘fern

fiddlehead season in New Brunswick

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This time of year in New Brunswick, the fields and riversides are turning green. The leaves of the alders are the size of a mouse’s ear and that means fishing in the streams. The small leaves of the red maples are like green stars against a blue sky. And bouquets of fiddlehead ferns are unfolding in the wet meadows and along the shores.


Fiddleheads, the young coiled leaf fronds of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris (L.) Tod.), are a local delicacy in New Brunswick. Steamed, with a pat of butter, they are the perfect vegetable for a spring meal. Fiddleheads are one of the edible wild plants featured in my book ‘within easy reach’ (Chapel Street Editions). I will be launching my book at 7 pm on June 9, 2016 at Westminster Books in Fredericton. If you live in the Fredericton area, I would be so happy to see you there!


For more information on the fiddlehead, see


Fiddleheads along the Saint John River in the Grand Lake Meadows


Evergreen Woodfern (Dryopteris intermedia Muhl.)

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On Sunday, I looked for and found my first November fern!  Since we had about 25 cm of snow yesterday, I may have found my only fern of the winter!

The fern I found is an evergreen fern, pressed close to the earth this time of year. 


For me, identifying ferns is always a challenge.  I use the Peterson Field Guide,  ‘A Field Guide to the Ferns and their Related Families’  by Boughton Cobb, 1963. Then I turn to a very helpful website .

With patience and careful attention to some key features, I can usually figure them out.

checklist issued by the Nova Scotia Museum for a fern project several years ago; a checklist like this is helpful to double-check your identification

The key features for the fern I found are:

  • the roughly triangular shape
  • the ‘thrice-cut’ nature of the leaves (cut once into leaflets or pinnae, a second time into subleaflets or pinnules, and a third time into lobes)
  • the stalk is greenish and scaly, not hairy
  • the lowest pair of inside subleaflets (next to the stem) of the lowest leaflet are slightly shorter than the second subleaflets next to the stem (if you look closely at the photo above, this feature is hard to see due to the camera’s perspective – the best example is the fern at the upper right).  

This fern is the Evergreen Woodfern (Dryopteris intermedia), closely related to and difficult to distinguish from the Spinulose Woodfern.

a leaf of the Evergreen Woodfern... the lowest pair of inside sub-leaflets at 'A' are shorter than the next pair at 'B'... this is the feature distinguishing the Evergreen Woodfern from other Woodferns

Written by jane tims

November 25, 2011 at 6:46 am

making friends with the ferns #1

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November is an odd time to think about identifying ferns, I admit.  But identification of the evergreen ferns is still possible, as they hang on to their identity in the frosty air and even beneath the snow.  Also, ferns are so beautiful, it is fun just to look over the field guides and reminisce about the days of summer.

a pressed Long Beech Fern in my copy of Boughton Cobb’s ‘Field Guide to the Ferns’

Ferns belong to the group of vascular plants known as the Pteridophytes.  They have stems, roots and leaves but no seeds.  Instead, they reproduce by spores and have complicated life cycles.

Ferns grow in many habitats.  In our area they are found in moist and shaded woodlands.  They are also inhabitants of fields, cliffs, wetlands and cityscapes.   I have even seen ferns growing deep within the Howe Caverns of New York State where they have taken advantage of the scant habitat provided by artificial lighting.

The uniform ‘greenness’ of ferns and their highly patterned leaves make them popular as a motif, especially for home decorating and at Christmastime.

In New Brunswick, fiddleheads, the tightly coiled new leaves of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris (L.) Todaro), are collected for food every spring along the banks of rivers and their tributaries.


waking from a dream

                        Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris(L.) Todaro)


bottom-land thicket

naked in spring

a rumpled bed

the throws of hibernation


new growth cocooned

in dry leaves, bent skeletons

of last summer’s fern


sun surge

an insult

between curtains


green fiddlehead


head down

fist thrust

between pillows and down

fingers stretched

filigreed shadow

new blocking of sun


brown coverlet



new green bedspread

new green canopy

green shade


© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

November 9, 2011 at 6:48 am

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