- Polypodiopsida (ferns)
- A group of early vascular plants that produce spores (no flowers or seeds)
- Brake / Maiden-hair Family (Pteridaceae)
- Perennial fern
- Grows primarily from rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
- Stem brown to black and smooth
- Bright green triangular frond divided into leaflets (compound) with 2 to 3 levels of division (pinnation)
- Light yellow exudate (an excreted substance) covers the underside
- Reproduces from spores (a small, usually single-celled, reproductive body)
- Sori (sacs containing spores) grow on the underside of the frond
- Height to 6 in.
- Native to California
- Grows in shady, rocky areas in chaparral, oak woodlands, and mixed-evergreen forests
- See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
- Outside California, grows from British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico, and east to Idaho, Nevada, and Utah
- Grows at elevations to 7,500 ft.
Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)
- Dusky-footed woodrats (Neotoma fuscipes annectens) eat the fronds
- Native people had several uses for goldback fern
- Stems used in basketry (Mason 1904)
- Plant used to ease childbirth afterpains and for toothaches
- Spores used by children to make designs on their hands
- Pentagramma (pen-ta-GRAM-ma) – from the Latin for “five lines” or “stripes”: a pentagram can be drawn from the tips of the fronds
- triangularis (try-ang-gew-LARE-is) – from the Latin for “three sided,” referring to the general shape of the fronds
- Goldback – refers to the light yellow color on the back of the fern created by the powdery exudate
- The light yellow powdery substance on the underside of the fronds is not spores, but a protective covering to inhibit dehydration
- To distinguish goldback ferns from other Edgewood ferns, turn over the frond to see the light yellow powder (dry exudate), which will come off easily on fingers or clothing; the darker, gold-colored features are spores
- During the dry season, frond curls up and remains; as soon as moisture is available, it un-curls
- Found in woodlands
- This fern is found in wooded sections on every trail except the Sunset Trail
- See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
- Grows new fronds when wet weather arrives, but may keep fronds all year
American Fern Society. About Ferns.
Mason, O.T. 1904. Indian Basketry: Studies in a Textile Art Without Machinery, Volume 2. Doubleday, Page, and Co.
U.S. Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. What Are Ferns?.