Wood Fern Family

Western Sword Fern © AFengler

Dryopteridaceae (dry-OP-ter-id-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Scales on stalks
  • Fronds 1- to 4-pinnate
  • Sori along frond veins
  • Indusia present

Description (Jepson)

  • Ferns (Polypodiopsida)
    • An early group of vascular plants that produce spores (reproductive cells)
      • Produce no flowers or seeds
      • Fossil records date back almost 400 million years, versus 130 million years for flowering plants
  • Perennial herbs
    • Grow from rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
  • Fronds (leaves)
    • Compound (divided into leaflets), with 1-4 levels of division (1-4 pinnate)
    • Young fronds uncurl from tight spirals called fiddleheads
    • Stalks (petioles) have scales
  • Sori
    • Sori (singular: sorus) are clusters of spore-producing, sac-like structures called sporangia (singular: sporangium)
      • Sporangia sacs split open to catapult mature, microscopic spores, which are wind dispersed
    • Located on the underside of leaflets along the veins
    • Each round sorus is protected by a tissue flap called an indusium (plural: indusia)


See General References

Specific References

American Fern Society. About Ferns.

Pai, A. 2018, Dec. 28. Fantastic ferns and where to find them. Bay Nature.

U.S. Forest Service. What are ferns? Forest Service. United States Department of Agriculture.

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family