“What fern is that?” I thought to myself while hiking on the Steep Ravine trail. It looked sort of like a five finger fern… but without the leaflets. I couldn’t find it in any of my books, so I turned to a botany geek friend–and a day later got an email identifying it as the non-native fern Cretan brake (Pteris cretica) and referring me to the Marin Flora. Which does, indeed, have a reference to one collection of this fern–in 1985, on the Steep Ravine trail.
I guess it’s happy there.
Though this isn’t a plant you’re likely to see often while out hiking, it is an example of how fun sleuthing out plants can be. For tricky species it’s helpful to have a good, diverse collection of field guides (since each gives a slightly different description)–but having other people to consult with is invaluable.
Incidentally, a Cretan is from the Isle of Crete–which this fern may or may not be; the flora says its usual distribution is pan-tropical, and widely cultivated, but that its original range is uncertain. It is not to be confused with the cretin brake, which isn’t from Crete but is just somewhat ill-behaved.