Along the Jamestown Island Tour Road, 33 species of ferns and related species flourish in rich moist soil of woods and thickets, stream banks, and swamp margins. Vascular plants with a two-part life cycle, ferns require moist ground for reproduction. Wind and water spread spores from the fronds, resulting result in tiny plants which in turn produce another generation of frond-bearing plants. Green all year, Christmas fern is widely distributed throughout the Park, growing in clumps wherever there is shade and a bit of moisture. Eastern Marsh fern can be seen forming drifts in ditches along roadways and trails. Cinnamon Fern forms vigorous growth in moist areas. In early summer, its tall cinnamon-colored spore-forming stalks contrast markedly with the bright green leafy fronds, making the plant easy to spot. Because of its spreading lace fronds, some people think Royal fern is the most attractive of the ferns. Found in freshwater swamps, the plant produces separate brown spore-bearing stalks in early summer. Ebony Spleenwort is scattered throughout the Park in drier disturbed areas. Smaller than Christmas fern, its main stem-axis through the frond is shiny-black. New York Fern and Broad Beech fern are occasional species in more heavily shaded areas. Fern allies share the life cycle characteristics of ferns but lack their stem and leaf structure. The most conspicuous fern allies are the Horsetails (Equisetum species). Liverworts and Clubmosses (Lycopodium species) are also considered allies. Several species of each are found within the park.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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