Ferns - Prairie Moonwort Fern
NPS Photo by Beth Burkhart
A botanist working on contract for the U.S. Forest Service has discovered a rare form of Moonwort Fern, Botrychium campestre, in Wind Cave National Park. Dr. Donald Farrar, from Iowa State University, was hired by the U.S. Forest Service to determine if this moonwort fern, Botrychium campestre, a plant that only grows a few inches high, was to be found anywhere on the Black Hills National Forest. When he was unable to locate the plant on Forest Service land, he began looking on National Park Service land and quickly found it.
Dr. Farrar said, “What is significant about this find is what it tells us about the prairie in the park. There is a very high diversity of native plants here and the discovery of this plant tells us this is a very healthy environment. This is the best native mixed-grass prairie we’ve seen in the Black Hills.”
This plant is commonly found on prairie remnants in Iowa and Minnesota and eastward through the Great Lakes area. This was the first time it had been found in the park or the Black Hills since a single plant was collected in 1973. This find marked the first success in a ten-year search by Black Hills Forest Service botanists to relocate the species. Since the discovery of this plant others have been found in the park and in the National Forest. The discovery of the other sites are importnat since the plant is ranked as critically imperiled in South Dakota and a varied population helps insure its continued existance.