The unfurling of fern fiddleheads in spring is one of the things I look forward to every year. To me, each one is a work of art. Above is a lovely reddish-bronze Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) named for its quick demise when touched by frost.
Fiddleheads are perfect examples of a Fibonacci spiral, a mathematical sequence that builds from 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. Each number is the total of the previous two. The whole Universe can be defined mathematically, the way plants grow, our body works, everything, which I find pretty fascinating. But I digress… Above are several examples of Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana), that start out quite wooly, unfolding into rough, chartreuse clusters of beaded mini-ferns before opening their fronds completely. The name comes from the fertile pinnae that occur about halfway up the stem, which mature and fall off in summer, giving an ‘interrupted’ look to the frond.
Above is an unfurling Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina), a delicate, lovely thing. Have you ever seen such perfection?
Even though there is an evergreen Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) frond from last year in the background of the above photo, the white wooly fiddleheads here are Interrupted Ferns. Below are Christmas Fern fiddleheads, which unfurl symmetrically to form large circular mounds.
Lastly, are Cinnamon Fern fiddleheads (Osmunda cinnamomea), also wooly, but with a reddish-brown tinge to them. Some claim the name comes from the fertile fronds that rise up separately in early summer, looking a bit like cinnamon sticks, but technically, it refers to the brown fibers near the base of the plant.
Above are our most common woodland ferns, but there are many more that I either didn’t see or missed photographing in the few days when they were emerging. Many make great additions to the garden, preferring shady, moist soil that is rich in humus, like that found in most woodlands.
What marvels of nature Eliza!
Indeed they are – thanks, Maria!
Lovely! So pleased to see your blogs in my email box again. I goofed up the settings and missed out on them for the past few months.
Thank you, Ellen. I’m glad you are enjoying them once again. 🙂
You have beautiful ferns, Eliza. It is one plant group I have struggled to learn to identify except for those that stand out like one called the Harts Tongue Fern which is just a flat leaf. Ours too and uncurling but none are as wooly as your Interrupted fern. It looks so soft. Lovely post:)
Thank you so much. I was told by a neighbor that we have 19 different kinds of fern here. I’m no specialist, but I would love to get better at knowing them all.
wow – 19 that sounds like a lot! Must find out how many we have here in Ireland
Beautiful and awesome, Eliza!!! Amazing Mother is! Thank you for honoring Her, my friend. Thank you. Love, Amy ❤
Thanks, Amy, she is pretty awesome, I agree. 🙂
Pretty amazing plant life when you get close too 🙂
We like getting a closer look! 😉 Inquiring minds…
Yes we do 😀
Wow, I never see these any more unless I’m on a walk in the woods at the right time. Such a pleasure to see so many and get their various names. I like the math of it. Perhaps we could almost say the ferns were participating in something like set theory. Lovely and interesting!
Thank you so much, I’m glad you liked it!
Amongst all these, I especially like the Lady Fern. But all of them seem mysterious and magical to me. It feels as if faeries should be hiding nearby.
Yes, I agree. Little miracles!
Amazing x thank you! and those facts – fascinating! oh how perfectly the universe has organised itself! xxx
Yes, indeed. Thanks, Sophie!
And knowing that ferns already existed in prehistoric times, make your pictures even more fascinating.
Yes, some of our oldest plants, which makes them even more special.
I knew I would love,love, love this post! I love ferns – especially unfurling ferns. Some incredible beauties here. My favorite is Maidenhair Fern – her fiddles look like magic fairy wands. I love the woods. You are a lucky woman Eliza, winters aside.
Thanks so much, Kathy. Glad you loved it! From now on when I see maidenhair fiddleheads, I’ll think of fairies! 🙂 And yes, I do feel quite blessed, even in winter. ;-D
How beautiful they are. I am going to pay more attention now to the unfurling process, Thank you Eliza!
🙂 Thanks, Dor!
What gorgeous captures of amazing plants! I love watching things unfurl! Thanks for sharing this Eliza, just beautiful…
Thank you, Julie!
Your work is always so touching. You have quite the eye, and I enjoyed that you “digressed” Fibonacci numbers. Really great photos!
Thanks so much, Kim. I knew you’d like the science/math bit. 🙂
I love your ferns Eliza. I only have ostrich ferns, so it is fascinating to see other types unfurl. Such an array of colours too. Quite remarkable plants.
Thanks, Cathy. I use ferns a lot in my gardens, I’d be lost without them!
These unfurling ferns are lovely! Unofortunately he climate in most of California is too dry for ferns to last long.
Thank you, Jesh, and welcome! Ferns do require moist, shady conditions for the most part. There are a few that are a bit more drought tolerant like Polystichums and Polypodiums, but still would require shade.
Smitten, absolutely smitten. I had a decent show myself this spring of fiddleheads but don’t have the wonderful variety you do, Eliza. Is there one particular fern which is your favorite? I’m looking to add another. I have autumn, ghost, and Japanese painted.
Thanks, Barbara. It would be tough for me to pick a favorite. Hayscented is delicate and lovely, forms beautiful colonies and has nice fall color. Maidenhair have a great form and don’t spread rapidly, if you are looking for something that won’t take over the bed.
Hayscented appeals to me over Maidenhair. I kill them off fairly regularly at least inside. Hayscented is such a nice name too! Thanks, I’ll look for it.
Its like they just stretch their little arms to the sun. Great pictures!
Thanks, Julie. Hope all is well with you. How’s the hip?
Still rehabbing but better each week. Thank you for asking!
Now I want to go figure out what the different types of ferns in my parents’ woods are (as heretofore, they have been known as “ferns”).
Thanks, Sarah, glad it sparked an interest. You’ll probably be surprised at the variety. Ferns are such a beautiful plant!
Your ferns are all so beautiful, as are your photos of them. I really like ferns, and often wonder why we don’t have any in our woods here.
Thank you, Robin. No ferns? Perhaps it’s too salty?? I would think in deep shade there would be at least a few. Were they picked/harvested perhaps?
No ferns at all in our woods. I don’t know why. The nearby state parks have ferns in their wood so perhaps they were all picked/harvested. We didn’t have ferns in our woods in Ohio, either. Since M and I both like them, we planted some, and they’re doing quite well now. We might do the same here.
Interesting, I wonder if a local naturalist or botanist would know if they used to be there or become locally extinct millennia ago. They are so ancient a plant, I assumed they grew everywhere except deserts.
What absolutely gorgeous close up shots of your elegant ferns, Eliza. You have photographed them with such love and sensitivity! I love your first shot best, but also the Lady Fern. I photographed our ferns unfolding, but didn’t get nearly so close and clear as you have. Such art- these should be made into prints and framed! Thank you, too, for your mention of the mathematics of it all, which is the fabric of everything. Savoring this post still…. ❤
Thank you so much. What lovely compliments! Big hugs! 🙂
Those ferns are so lovely!
Thank you, Fi!
These are beautiful photos, Eliza. I felt as if I was there watching the ferns unfurl myself … Do you use a particular camera or equipment for close-ups? Your photos are always so gorgeous :).
Thank you kindly! I have a Canon Rebel XS and the lens I use the most is 55-250. I’m pretty happy with it.
I just love your pictures! They are a-ma-zing! 🙂
Thank you so much, Ana! ❤
On Wed, May 20, 2015 at 10:25 AM, Eliza Waters wrote:
You have really captured the beauty of these ferns. And it all happens seemingly in a moment so kudos for being present! It is truly awesome ( in the real meaning of that word) that these patterns can be found in the smallest things as well as the mind boggling huge.
It is astounding that these patterns form the whole universe! It seems so profound to me. Thanks for the like and the thoughtful comments!
The unfurling ferns are surely a springtime treasure.
Do you eat fiddleheads? We didn’t growing up, but I’d love to give them a try now. I just never know when the cutoff is between tasty and not, and I’m also not sure which ferns *are* tasty…
So nice to hear from you! You must be settled in by now?
Yes, I’ve eaten fiddleheads, but they are not high on my list. I’ll take asparagus instead! 🙂 They must be eaten very fresh, so forget getting them in a store. We have tons of the ‘right’ ones on our land and when I see what they charge in the supermarkets, I think I’m sitting on a goldmine! It is the Ostrich Fern – Matteuccia struthiopteris, smooth green, not wooly, picked just as it is emerging from the ground. They often are covered with golden scales that protected them over winter. Brush these off BEFORE you wash them or you’ll have a mess that doesn’t come off easily. Some recommend parboiling to remove some of the bitterness, but this is something I don’t do because mine are freshly picked. I saute’ them with garlic, butter and miso, which is yummy. Let me know if you try them.
I’m not sure you’ve exactly sold me on them 😉 Asparagus is plentiful around here, and so are morels. Might just stick to those!
We are settled in now, and really loving the location. Just this week things have calmed down at work, back to usual. Thinking I’ll have more time for creative pursuits in the near future, and you’ll be seeing more of me. Thanks for checking in!
beatufiul:-) I dug a bunch out of my yard early spring and placed in my daughter’s yard. She was worried they were dead-lol-BUT when they emerged she said , “Mom they look prehistoric”-LOL. they are so neat + loved your captures!
Thank you, Robbie. She’s right, they are prehistoric! 🙂
Reblogged this on LIVING THE DREAM.
Thank you for reblogging!
This was lovely. So glad it was below a recent post. I am fond of fronds.
Thank you, Flower. You never know what WP pops up below our posts – glad you liked it!
Ferns are among my favorites, you photographed them beautifully. 🙂
Thank you, Jen!
What a gorgeous post – you have captured so well the magic of that delicate yet robust unfurling.
Thank you for revisiting this post, Carol. I’m looking forward to seeing them unfurl in the next month, soon!