This well known and beautiful fern is quite common in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park, being generally a plant of moist locations in the lower Canadian Zone. On a talus slope bordering the West Side Road and on the east slope of Mt. Wow one finds it in great abundance but here, it is interesting to note, the soil is rather dry throughout long periods in the summer and also inhabiting this location is the Rock Brake (Crytogramma acrostichoides).
The derivation of the common name is a matter of conjecture - either referring to the slender shiny black leaf stalks or the fine fibruous roots. Its technical name finds the greek "a" (not) and "diane" (to wet) and the latin "pedatus" (foot-like) referring to the moisture shedding potentialities of the leaves and the bird-foot like branching of the stems. (*)
The Maidenhair grows in clumps of tufts; its slender feathery pinnae which are light green in color. The ultimate leaf segments are palmately veined, attached to the stem by slender petioles and with the upper margin deeply cleft. These ultimate segments are generally broadly triangular or oblong in outline and very distinctive in appearance. A close examination of these segments during the fruiting period (mid-summer in this park) will disclose the fact that portions of the margin are recurved or doubled back toward the under side and beneath these recurved portions the sporangia or spore bearing bodies will be found. Unfortunately this plant is not evergreen.
C. Frank Brockman
(*) Frye, "Ferns of the Northwest" 1934. Metropolitan Press, pages 83-85.
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