The name Onoclea is from the Greek onos, vessel, and kleio,to close or sheathe, in reference to the podlike pinnules enclosing the spores on the fertile fronds. Fossil records dating back 54 million years indicate that Onoclea was cosmopolitan in distribution until glaciation and the emergence of new mountain ranges subsequently restricted its range. Presently, there are only one to three species limited in native habitats to North America and Asia. The Asian material is sometimes designated as O. interrupta or O. sensibilis var. interrupta. Also, based on chromosome counts Kato (1991) places Matteuccia x intermedia in the genus as O. intermedia.

Notholaena lanuginosa sunbathing with succulents on an exposed rocky slope in the Canary Islands.

Notholaena marantae in rocky compost in the Kohout garden.

Notholaena standleyi in the forbidding dryland surrounds of Bumblebee 4, Arizona.

Onoclea sensibilis as a ground cover in the perennial bed at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

These are deciduous ferns with long-creeping rhizomes yielding a strong propensity to spread, especially in moist to wet areas. They are dimorphic with upright spikes of beadlike fertile fronds appearing in late summer and persisting until the following year. The green spores are released (rapidly in warmth) in winter or spring. Sterile fronds have two vascular bundles shaped like dog bones that join together in the upper portion of the frond. They have netted veins and are sometimes mistaken for those of Woodwardia areolata. The latter has minutely toothed rather than wavy margined pinnae, winged lower pinnae, and fertile fronds of narrow leafy tissue. When fertile fronds are present, the two are not likely be confused.

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