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Week 8: Ferns

This week we are looking at 3 varieties of ferns that grow

in the forests of western Maine.  Download or print and fold

the Week 8 pocket journal and see if you can find all three!


Fern Vocabulary

Frond: the whole blade &
the stalk below
Blade: Leafy part of the frond
Leaflet: Main division of a leaf
Fertile Fronds: leaves that bear sori or

the frond’s reproductive spore cases
Crosier: Fiddlehead or curled up

frond of an emerging fern


Christmas Fern:
Polystichum acrostichoides

Traits: Grows in free-form clusters, evergreen

Blade: Dark green & narrows at tip

Leaflet: A bump near the stalk 
toe of Christmas stocking or Santa sitting in

his sleigh behind his reindeer). Stalk below

the blade completely covered in scales

Fertile Fronds (when present): 
On upper portion of blade that is reduced in size

Crosier: Covered with silvery white scales
Habitat: Forest

Sensitive Fern:
Onoclea sensibilis

Traits: Fronds grow in large colonies

Blade: In shape of triangle, but all blades have some variation

Leaflet: Pairs opposite each other (each forming a mini-bowtie)

Fertile Fronds (when present): Bead-like clusters growing on 
separate stalks (begin as blue-green beads that turn brown

and persist through winter) First to turn yellowish-brown in

late summer (sensitive to cooler temps)

Crosier: Pale red

Habitat: Moist condition in sun and shade

Cinnamon Fern:
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum

Traits: Fronds grow in vase-like cluster

Blade: Broadest at center

Leaflets: Have tiny cinnamon-colored woolly tufts

near stalk (hairy underarms). Leaflets quite pointy

Fertile Fronds (when present): 
Separate stalk that grows in center of vase and 

begins as aquamarine &turns cinnamon as it matures.  

Fronds eventually turn burnt orange &then brown 

Crosier: Circular, densely covered with

whitish-cinnamon hairs

Habitat: Wet areas, including bogs, swamps,

and along stream banks


Fern Prints

- paper or fabric
- paint (acrylic or poster works best)
- Foam brush, paint brush or small paint roller
- disposable or reusable plate
- newspaper
- collected ferns and leaves

1. Collect a few examples of ferns.
2. Squirt paint on the plate- you can use one

color or make a rainbow.
3. Place your fern on the newspaper.
4 Use the brush to apply a thin layer 
of paint to the fern.
5. Peel the fern off and place it paint side down

on your paper or fabric.
6. Place another piece of newspaper on top to

make a fern and paper sandwich.
7. Using your hands apply firm pressure over the fern.
8. Peel the layers away to reveal your botanical art!

Plant Prints in Clay

My Bright Ideas details how to make beautiful trinkets and gifts

by pressing ferns and other leaves into clay.  Paint when dry. 

If you don't have air dry clay you can make some at the link

below from Make and Takes:

Patterns in Nature

What do the Fibonacci sequence and ferns have in common? 

Learn about how ferns and many other natural objects express

this mathematical property.  Visit Science for Kids for a full

explanation and worksheets. 

More Fibonacci Fun

If you liked the site above, you will LOVE this one!

Time Lapse Video of a Fern Unfurling:

Watch a really amazing video.  This is happening

all over the forest in the northeast right now!


Each week we feature a lesser known naturalist in our Pocket Journal Series.

In this space you will find the full quote and more information about the author. 


Dr. Kathleen Pryer, Duke College Professor of Biology


Dr. Pryer led the research team that discovered a new genus of ferns in

Costa Rica, and named it the Gaga group, after androgynous singer, Lady Gaga. 


Lady Gaga is an amazing champion for equality and

compassion, and we wanted to give her a scientific

namesake that characterizes the struggle we have in

biology for understanding diversity in humanity, in all

of biology, and even in ferns.


[The Gaga ferns] show a complex variety of ways

about accomplishing’s not so much

that this particular fern shows something really bizarre

in its’s that all ferns and many plants do

things more than one way to achieve success.


We named a new genus of ferns found in Central

and South America, Mexico, Arizona and Texas in

honor of Lady Gaga because of her fervent defense

of equality and individual expression. At one stage

of its life, the new genus Gaga has somewhat fluid definitions of gender and bears a striking resemblance to one of Gaga's famous costumes. Members of the new genus also bear a distinct DNA sequence spelling GAGA at a unique position.


More articles about the discovery:

--“Professor Names New ‘Bisexual’ Fern after Lady Gaga; links plants to gay rights”

--19 Ferns Go Gaga, National Geographic Society Newsroom

--Scientists name Costa Rica fern after Lady Gaga, Tico Times


Dr. Kathleen Pryer’s Lab Website


Photo caption: Lady Gaga at the 2010 Grammy

Awards and her gametophyte (Image: Duke University)

cinnamon fern with fertile fronds.jpg

Cinnamon Fern crosier (L) Unfurling fern (R).

cinnamon unfurling.jpg
Cinnamon fern crosier.jpg
Fern Morphology-1.jpg

Christmas Fern crosier  (L) and grown fern (R).

h-Christmas 1.jpg
Christmas Fern .jpg
Sensitive Fern Crosier.jpg
Sensitive Fern and Crosier.jpg

Click the PDF icon to the left. Set to print at 95% or fit

to page. Cut around the grey border before folding.

Follow the folding

instructions below:


 Week 8

Printable Pocket

Journal (PDF) 

Week 8:

Pocket Guide

for Your Phone

Sensitive Fern crosier (L) and unfurling Sensitive Fern (R). 

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