Saturday, October 17, 2020

What's a Moonwort?

I saw a Moonwort, or Moonwort fern, this week, for the first time in my life. It popped up in my yard, and I noticed it only because I was sitting down in the moss, picking up acorns all around me.

It's a strange fern that spends a long period of its life underground, between 5 to 10 years, using a fungus to get its nutrients! Then when it's ready, it emerges into the light around July, with a single leaf blade and a spore stalk. It lasts through the winter, till about May.

It's also known as a grapefern (Botrychium dissectum) because of the grape-like bunches of spores it produces. It's found throughout New England, but is not easily propagated in a garden setting because it depends on specific soil-living symbiotic fungi to survive.  Once germinated, the plant may live nearly five decades. Unbelievable!

It has really beautiful lacy leaves.

Fascinating! Such an unusual plant! There's so much to learn, just from spending time outside, quietly gathering acorns.

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