This is an evolutionarily ancient and very diverse group of plants that are often placed together in the taxonomic Division Pteridophyta, which is comprised of vascular plants that do not produce seeds, but instead reproduce and are dispersed through spores. Pteridophytes have free-living, independent gametophytes and produce motile sperm. The morphological and evolutionary diversity contained within this division of the plant kingdom is considerable. In Denali the "lower plants" are represented by the following groups: true ferns (Blechnaceae, Dryopteridaceae, Pteridaceae, Thelypteridaceae, and Polypodiaceae) the horsetails (Equisetaceae), Club mosses, (Lycopodiaceae), Spike mosses (Selaginellaceae) and quillworts (Isoetaceae).

The most species-rich fern family in the Denali flora is the Wood fern family (Dryopteridaceae; 13 species), followed by the Maidenhair fern family (Pteridaceae; 3 species). There is one species each from the three other fern families that occur here: Chain fern family (Blechnaceae), Polypody family (Polypodiaceae), and Maiden fern family (Thelypteridaceae). Closely related to the true ferns are an ancient and peculiar-looking group of spore-bearing plants appropriately called the Moonworts, which are placed by taxonomists in the Adder-tongue plant family (Ophioglossaceae). There are seven species of moonworts known to occur in the flora of Denali National Park. Except for the most common member of this genus in the park, which is Botrychium lunaria, these species have very interrupted and spotty distribution patterns – they are found only rarely, even by the keenest observers. Moonworts are most commonly found in lush and moist, (but not wet) meadow habitats in subalpine slopes and river terraces in association with dense growths of grasses such as Festuca altaica, Poa spp and forbs, including wild geranium (Geranium erianthum), Monkshood (Aconitum delphinofolium) and Veronica (Veronica wormskjoldii).
a smartphone displaying the splash screen for a plant id app with the words denaliflora interactive key

DenaliFlora Plant Identification App

Download a free app to explore Denali's plant life with an interactive key to over 300 species. Cell service and Wi-Fi are limited in Denali, but is available for most carriers at the Murie Science and Learning Center and the Denali Visitor Center.

Once downloaded, the app and all included elements (species descriptions, photos, etc.) are fully functional out of cellular range - so you can use the app to identify plants anywhere you may find yourself in Denali's wild landscapes.

Download for IOS from the App Store
Download for Android from Google Play

App Features

  • Interactive Key: Find a plant you would like to identify, open the app and select from characters listed to start the identification process. Depending on the key some selections may introduce additional characters relevant to the remaining species, or remove characters that no longer apply to remaining species. Descriptions and examples defining botanical terms are provided. Swipe right to see the list of species matching your selected characters, or swipe left to select more characters to narrow down the list.
  • Species List: Already know the plant but want to learn more about it? Tap the “Species List” button to search all 301 plant species covered by the app. This feature is helpful if you are family with a certain type of plant, for example orchids or spruce, and want to know what species of those groups may be commonly found in Denali.
  • Key Tutorial: New to plant identification? The DenaliFlora Plant Identification App was designed with you in mind! Swipe through the "Key Tutorial" to learn how to use the interactive key.
  • About the Key: Read up on the intended purpose of the key, how the species included were selected, and about the Ecological Atlas of Denali's Flora - a web resource for which this app is the field companion.

Last updated: January 10, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755


(907) 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am—4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you get to the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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