Parsley ferns

The parsley ferns (and parsley-looking they are) greet hikers at higher elevations along the trails in North America, Europe, the Andes, and parts of Asia. They snuggle with their roots protected at the bases of rocks or in crevices, sometimes in abundance, and bravely face the sunshine. Fronds are dimorphic with leafy sterile fronds responsible for the common name and taller, upright fertile fronds responsible for the botanical. The genus name comes from the Greek kryptos, hidden, and gramme, line, a description of the sori, which are "hidden lines" under the incurved margins of the fertile pinnae. Free veins likewise are obscure. Stipes are grooved and enclose a stubby Y-shaped vascular bundle. There are about 10 species, all of them difficult to cultivate.

Cryptogramma acrostichoides Parsley fern, American rock brake

Epithet means "with the sori covering the entire underside of the pinnae."

Evergreen sterile fronds and deciduous fertile fronds, 4 to 10 in. (10 to 25 cm). Zones 2 to 8.

description: The rhizome is short-creeping and branching, bearing the stubs of old stipe bases. Grooved stipes basally brown and becoming green are over one-half of the frond length. Tufted, ovate bipinnate to tripinnate, slightly hairy fronds vary with the short sterile blades evergreen, while the taller, upright fertile blades are deciduous. Sori are on narrow segments and covered by a false indusium of rolled leaf margins.

range and habitat: The American parsley fern grows among sunny rocks in mountains in acid to occasionally neutral soil. its native range extends from Alaska to california and high elevations in Arizona and New Mexico as well as down from the Yukon through central Canada.

culture and comments: An attractive fern, this species, like so many alpines, is difficult in cultivation. Give it a rocky root run, good drainage, a handful of acidic or granitic soil, and a top dressing of pebbles. It is not for areas with hot summers. In nature it can easily be confused, especially when fertile material is lacking, with fellow mountaineer Aspidotis densa.Geol-ogy enlightened hikers will note that Aspidotis prefers serpentine substrates. The latter is also monomorphic and has dark wiry stipes rather than the pliant green ones of the dimorphic Cryptogramma.

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