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Ferns and Fern Allies of Athens County, Ohio


This page was last revised on August 17, 2013.


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Athens County, Ohio, located in southeastern Ohio, touching the Ohio River, is located in the Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau section of Ohio. The geology principally features exposures of sandstones, shales and coal, with occasional limestone. Sandstone outcrops may reach about five meters in height, usually less. The local sandstones, however, are usually not extremely hard or acid and so do not well support some of the more particular petrophilic pteridophyte flora such as the mountain spleenwort, Asplenium montanum, although many other ferns do grow well on them. Three pteridophytes are particularly abundant in Athens County: field horsetail, Equisetum arvense; sensitive fern, Onoclea sensibilis, and Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides.

Many of the area's pteridophytes do grow on rocks, so rocks are always a great place to look.

Plants that almost always grow on rocks:

Plants that usually grow on rocks: Plants that often grow on rocks: Plants that sometimes grow on rocks

There are also ferns that grow normally or exclusively on limestone rocks in our climatic zone, but these are mostly absent from our area due to the lack of suitable limestone outcrops. These include:

In addition, Asplenium trichomanes normally grows on limestone, and Asplenium rhizophyllum is most often to be found on limestone.


Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Lycopodiophyta

Class: Lycopodiopsida: the clubmosses, spikemosses and quillworts

Order: Lycopodiales: the clubmosses

Family: Lycopodiaceae: the clubmosses

Genus: Diphasiastrum
Diphasiastrum digitatum (aka Lycopodium flabelliforme): ground-cedar or running-cedar
Common, often forming large colonies, favoring disturbed land, scrub and young woodlands
Diphasiastrum tristachyum
Has supposedly been collected from the county, but no sites known
Genus: Dendrolycopodium
Dendrolycopodium obscurum: ground-pine
Rare; I only know of it from two areas, one in Bern Township, and at Strouds Run State Park, where I've found three colonies.
Dendroycopodium dendroides: ground-pine
Frequent in the westernmost fringe of the county, as in Zaleski State Forest
Dendrolycopodium hickeyii: ground-pine
Has supposedly been collected from the county, but no sites known

Family: Huperziaceae: the firmosses

Genus: Huperzia (aka Urostachys)
Huperzia lucidula (aka Lycopodium lucidulum or Urostachys lucidula): shining clubmoss
Occasional; to be found on acid, north-facing rock and moist, acid, sheltered slopes near streams; several good colonies at Strouds Run

Order: Selaginellales: the spikemosses

Family: Selaginellaceae: the spikemosses

Genus: Selaginella
Selaginella apoda (aka Selaginella apus): meadow spikemoss
Uncommon; I only know of it from one site in the Desonier Nature Preserve but undoubtedly more widespread

Division: Pteridophyta

Class: Equisetopsida: the horsetails and scouring-rushes

Order: Equisetales

Family: Equisetaceae: the horsetails and scouring-rushes

Genus: Equisetum: the horsetails
Equisetum arvense: field horsetail or shavegrass
Abundant, often carpeting moister rural roadsides and forming extensive colonies in other moist, open areas; may be mistaken for grass until seen up close
Genus: Hippochaete: the scouring rushes
Hippochaete hyemale var. affine: scouring-rush
Frequent, often forming extensive colonies, favoring sandy soils by or near waterways

Class: Ophioglossopsida: Ophioglossoid ferns

Order: Ophioglossales

Family: Ophioglossaceae: the adders-tongues

Genus: Ophioglossum
Ophioglossum pycnostichum: adders-tongue
Frequent in suitable sites, found in moist soils of low slope.

Family: Botrychiaceae: the grape ferns

Genus: Botrychium
Botrychium matricariifolium: matricary grape fern
Rare, known only from one site in Strouds Run State Park
Genus: Sceptridium
Sceptridium dissectum (aka Botrychium dissectum or B. obliquum): oblique grape fern
Frequent, favoring disturbed lands and young woodlands, often found in or near Diphasiastrum digitatum, above
Genus: Botrypus
Botrypus virginiana (aka Botrychium virginianum or Japanobotrychium virginianum): rattlesnake fern
Common, favoring rich soils in woodland borders

Class: Osmundopsida

Order: Osmundales

Family: Osmundaceae

Genus: Osmundastrum
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum: cinnamon fern
Rare in the central county, but common along the western fringe of the county, in wet, acid soils, often in boggy situations
Genus: Osmunda
Osmunda claytoniana: interrupted fern
Occasional, in moist hillside pockets, especially over sandstone by streambeds where water falls
Osmunda regalis: royal fern
Rare, in acid bog areas, only found in a few spots where the cinnamon fern also grows, and only along the westernmost fringe of the county

Class: Pteridopsida (Filicopsida)

Order: Hymenophyllales: the filmy ferns

Family: Trichomanaceae: the bristle ferns

Genus: Trichomanes
Trichomanes intricatum: weft fern
Rare, known only from a few rockhouses in central Athens County; this is known only as a gametophyte

Order: Dennstaedtiales

Family: Dennstaedtiaceae: the dennstaedtioid ferns

Genus: Dennstaedtia
Dennstaedtia punctilobula: hay-scented fern
Occasional, in woods, fields, or on moist rock, always in moist, acid environments

Family: Hypolepidaceae

Genus: Pteridium
Pteridium aquilinum
Uncommon here, can form large colonies in fields; the most common fern in the world, overall

Order: Pteridales

Family: Adiantaceae: the maidenhair ferns

Genus: Adiantum
Adiantum pedatum: maidenhair fern
Frequent, in moist woodlands, sometimes on moist rock

Family: Cheilantheaceae

Genus: Pellaea
Pellaea atropurpurea
Rare, known only in scattered locations in Canaan and Rome townships, only on limestone rock or calcareous pockets.

Order: Blechnales

Family: Woodsiaceae: the cliff ferns

Genus: Woodsia
Woodsia obtusa: blunt-lobe cliff fern
Occasional, on rocks or in rocky scree; I've only seen this two places in the county so far but is undoubtedly more widespread; most common at Fox Lake Wildlife Area

Family: Aspleniaceae: the spleenworts

Genus: Asplenium
Asplenium montanum: mountain spleenwort
Rare, in small cracks of acid sandstone in moist, sheltered pockets with a northern exposure. I don't actually know of any stations within Athens County, but it grows a few hundred feet outside the county along Raccoon Creek, and is plentiful in Jackson County at Lake Katharine
Asplenium pinnatifidum: lobed spleenwort
Occasional, in small cracks of hard, well-weathered sandstone. It is fairly common locally on the rocks overlooking the Hocking River in Rome and Carthage Townships in eastern Athens County, and is rare on the sandstone in the central county.
Asplenium platyneuron: ebony spleenwort
Common, in a wide variety of soils and situations
Asplenium rhizophyllum (aka Camptosorus rhizophyllus): walking fern
Frequent, on heavily-mossed rocks in low areas, sometimes forming extensive colonies on a large rock
Asplenium trichomanes: maidenhair spleenwort
Rare, formerly known only from one tiny colony of half a dozen plants on a densely mossy, east-facing rock face at Strouds Run State Park, but this colony has died out; no current colony known

Family: Cystopteridaceae: the fragile and oak ferns

Genus: Cystopteris
Cystopteris protrusa: lowland fragile fern
Frequent, on moist hillsides in soil
Cystopteris tenuis: upland fragile fern
Frequent, on sandstone under overhangs by streams

Family: Thelypteridaceae: the thelypterioid ferns or maiden ferns

Genus: Thelypteris
Thelypteris noveboracensis: New-York fern
Occasional, in moist, wooded bottomland and on rich slopes
Thelypteris palustris: marsh fern
Known only in the small remnant of Beaumont Swamp along US-33 near the Hocking River
Genus: Phegopteris
Phegopteris hexagonoptera: broad beech fern
Common, in wooded areas

Family: Blechnaceae: the chain ferns

Genus: Woodwardia
Woodwardia areolata: netted chain fern
Occasional in the western acid fringe of the county, mostly in acid seeps
Genus: Onoclea
Onoclea sensibilis: sensitive fern
Abundant, favoring open, moist, sunny areas
Genus: Matteuccia
Matteuccia struthiopteris (aka M. pensylvanica): ostrich fern
Occasionally escaped, on stream banks in loose, often sandy, soil; slightly outside its native range

Family: Athyriaceae: the lady ferns and glade ferns

Genus: Athyrium: the lady ferns
Athyrium angustum: northern lady fern
Frequent, in wet areas
Genus: Diplazium
Diplazium pycnocarpon (aka Athyrium pynocarpon): narrow glade fern
Occasional, in moist glens high on hillsides
Genus: Deparia
Deparia acrostichoides (aka Athyrium thelypterioides): silvery glade fern
Common, on moist hillsides and stream bottoms, often in extensive colonies

Order: Polypodiales

Family: Dryopteridaceae: the dryopteroid ferns

Genus: Dryopteris
There are several Dryopteris hybrids known from the county as well as species.
Dryopteris carthusiana (aka D. spinulosa): the spinulose wood fern; this is a tetraploid species, with D. intermedia as one of the parents
Frequent, on stream banks and moist slopes, sometimes on moist rock; look for it on north-facing slopes
Dryopteris cristata: crested wood fern
Known only in the small remnant of Beaumont Swamp along US-33 near the Hocking River
Dryopteris goldiana: Goldie's wood fern
Frequent, on moist, rich slopes high in valleys
Dryopteris intermedia: intermediate wood fern or fancy fern
Frequent, usually on moist rocks by streams; look for it on north-facing rock or in very sheltered areas; abundant in stream valleys in the western fringe of the county; this is a diploid species, one of the parents of D. carthusiana
Dryopteris marginalis: marginal or evergreen wood fern
Frequent, on moist rock or in rocky ground by streams, but only on north-facing rocks or in very sheltered areas
Dryopteris xneowherryi
A hybrid of D. marginalis and D. goldiana, known from one colony in Strouds Run Park
Dryopteris xtriploidea
A hybrid of D. carthusiana and D. intermedia; occasional in Strouds Run Park
Dryopteris carthusiana x Dryopteris marginalis
A hybrid; known from a single plant in Strouds Run Park
Genus: Polystichum
Polystichum acrostichoides: Christmas fern
Abundant, in a wide variety of soils and habitats

Family: Polypodiaceae: the polypodies

Genus: Polypodium
Polypodium appalachianum: Appalachia rock-cap fern
Rare, on rock shelves over sandstone, most commonly on northern exposures; this is the diploid species, and is one parent of the next species
Polypodium virginianum: Virginia rock-cap fern
Common, on rock shelves over sandstone, most commonly on southern exposures; this is the tetraploid species, one of the parents of which is the previous one
Polypodium xincognitum: hybrid rock-cap fern
Frequent, on rock shelves over sandstone, the triploid hybrid of the two above species; forms extensive colonies
Polypodium: unknown form
A different form of probably Polypodium virginianum with irregular, attenuated fronds, known from two locations on Long Run (close to each other).
Genus: Pleopeltis
Pleopeltis polypodioides: resurrection fern
Rare, known only from one colony on south-facing sandstone in eastern Rome Township, on private land; this is possibly the second-northern-most population known

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