Hart’s-tongue Fern

Asplenium scolopendrium

Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

This evergreen fern is a fresh green with undivided fronds which form clumps. Dark brown spore cases are borne in rows on the underside of the fronds. Frond length 60cm.

Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

They inhabit damp and shady habitats, like woodland and river banks, also rocks and walls. Common and widespread.

Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

Photographs of Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium), taken August 2011 on coastal pathway, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Wall-rue Spleenwort

Asplenium ruta-muraria

Wall-rue Spleenwort (Asplenium ruta-muraria)

A delicate little evergreen fern with blueish-green or olive-green, club-shaped leaflets with toothed margins. Brown spores can be seen beneath the bipinnate (twice divided) fronds. Frond length up to 12cm.

Wall-rue Spleenwort (Asplenium ruta-muraria)

Found growing in the crevices of old walls or rocks, mainly where there is limestone. Widespread but commonest in W Britain and Ireland.

Photographs of Wall-rue Spleenwort (Asplenium ruta-muraria), taken December 2012, local canal bridge, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Maidenhair Spleenwort

Asplenium trichomanes

Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes)

This little fern grows in tufts and has dark brownish to blackish-stemmed, pinnate fronds with pairs of small, oval leaflets. Frond length up to 15cm.

Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes)

Found growing in the crevices of old walls or rocks. A native species which is widespread but commonest in the west of Britain.

Photographs of Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), taken August 2015, Torquay, Devon. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Common Polypody

Polypodium vulgare

Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare)

The fronds are flat and oblong, with lobes fairly equal in size. They are dark green and are 1-pinnate. The sori are circular. Frond length 10 to 40cm.

Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare)

Found on walls, rocks and trees. Also found in damp, shady places like woodland banks and gorges. Common and widespread throughout, although mostly found in Western Britain and Ireland.

Photographs of Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare), taken April 2013, Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Great Horsetail

Equisetum telmateia

This is Britain’s largest horsetail, with pinkish-brown fertile stems, and the sterile stems are whitish with 20 to 40 fine grooves. The sterile stems are heavily branched with between 20 to 40 emerging from each node. It can grow up to 2m tall.

Fertile stems ripen in April, and sterile stems appear soon afterwards and  remain throughout the summer until they die down in late autumn. Found in damp shady places, like pool edges, ditches and marshes in woodland. A native species, and fairly frequent and widespread in England and Wales, and less so in the north.

Photographs of Great Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia), taken June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Wood Horsetail

Equisetum sylvaticum

The stem branches of this horsetail are branched themselves giving it a distinctive, elegant droop. It can grow up to 8cm tall.

Fertile stems ripen April to May, and it is found in damp woods and moors. Widespread but more common in northern Britain.

Photographs of Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum), taken June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Common Bracken

Pteridium aquilinum

Also called ‘Brake Fern’, this is a common and easily recognised fern. The stiff, triangular fronds are 3-times pinnate. They sprout individually straight from the rhizomes which can have a far-reaching spread. The spore cases are borne around the leaf margins. In autumn the fronds turn reddish-brown and die back to ground over winter until in spring when new fronds grow back. Plant height 1.5m and over.

Spore ripening time July to August. Found in woodland, heathland, grassland and hillsides. It prefers slightly acidic soil and dappled shade, but can tolerate full sun. A native species, and is common and widespread throughout Britain.

Bracken can be quite a serious problem in some areas because of its underground spreading nature via its rhizomes which can be as much as 400m in length. They can invade agricultural land and gardens where it can be hard to eradicate making it a noxious weed. The rhizomes can even survive fire. Bracken is poisonous to humans and livestock, and if ingested may cause oesophageal and stomach cancer.

Photographs taken June 2013 and December 2015, local woodland margin, Staffordshire.

Field Horsetail

Equisetum arvense

Also called the ‘Common Horsetail’, the first to be seen of this plant is the pinkish-brown fertile stems, resembling small asparagus sprouts, followed by the green sterile stems with jointed segments and whorls of side shoots forming spreading patches where they grow. Plant height 75cm.

Spore-bearing stems appear in March from tuber-bearing rhizomes, and spores ripen March to June. The sterile stems appear when the fertile stems die back, and are present throughout the summer months into late autumn when the first frosts arrive. Found commonly in damp fields, waste ground, roadsides and in gardens where it may become a troublesome weed. The rhizomes may grow down up to 2m into the ground where they are difficult to remove, and where they may spread into neighbouring properties. Britain’s commonest horsetail, native and widespread throughout.

The Field Horsetail is from a very ancient group of plants which has survived from the Carboniferous age, more than 230 million years ago. This plant, like all horsetails, contains high levels of silica which makes it toxic to livestock.

Photographs taken April 2009 and May 2013, local field near river, Staffordshire, and June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire.

Water Horsetail

Equisetum fluviatile

The stems of the Water Horsetail are smooth and may be sparsely covered whorls of narrow joined branches. Plant height 50 to 140cm.

Fertile stems ripen June to July. Found in marshes, on pond and lake margins, and ditches. Widespread and locally common in Britain and Ireland.

Photographs taken June 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire.