Plant of the day: chain fern (woodwardia)

This huge, charismatic fern is a  treat to find. With leaves that reach up to 9 feet long, it’s like no other fern around. Look for woodwardia (Woodwardia fimbriata) in wet places–near seeps, springs, and streams. It can grow in woods or in open areas; I’ve seen it deep in the forest and (photographed here) on the treeless, windswept hills of the Marin Headlands. You can find it as far north as British Columbia and east into Arizona.

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The huge leaves (3 to 9 feet long) are 1-pinnate, and the geometric brown spore capsules on their undersides alternate in a chain-like pattern–perhaps giving rise to the name.

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