We found a few leathery grape ferns near Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park recently. If you look at the photo, you can see some immature lighter green spores and some mature browning spores. It gets its unusual look from how it grows, divided into the sterile fronds (three leaflets), and the fertile part, which look like “grape bunches” of spores.
Why “Mooning over Ferns” in the title here? Grape fern’s scientific name is Sceptridium multifidium. They are closely related to the Botrychium genus of plants – largely known as Moonworts. The plant is considered partially evergreen, meaning the sterile leaves remain from spring through the winter. Browning occurs after the first frost.
The presence of these ferns indicates a healthy old-growth forest habitat. If you would like to find grape ferns, look in drier, more acidic areas. Some can also be found in moist woodlands, damp fields, and semi-open wet areas.
By Jack Minich, Linnea Pierson, and Emily Shosh