Woodsia polystichoides

Holly fern woodsia

Epithet means "like Polystichum."

Deciduous, 6 to 14 in. (30 to 35 cm). Zones 5 to 8.

description: The rhizome is erect to creeping with tufts of old stipe bases. Mahogany stipes are jointed, breaking close to the rachis, and are typically one-third of the frond length. Narrow, once-pinnate, lax blades are linear with 15 to 25 pairs of

Woodsia polystichoides in the rock garden at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

auriculate (eared), dull green pinnae. The pinnae are stalked as opposed to Woodsia intermedia whose lower pinnae are stalked but grade into upper pinnae that are broadly attached to the rachis (adnate). Clear, glassy hairs are scattered on the stipes and both surfaces of the pinnae, with a noticeable trail lining the upper midribs. sori outline the margins in a namesake Polystichum fashion and are encapsulated in hairy indu-sial cups.

range and habitat: This species is common among exposed rocks in the mountains of Japan, eastern Russia, Korea, China, and Taiwan. A heavily cloaked form from Kamchatka bears fronds that appear to be almost white under their protective polar fur coat of hairs and scales.

culture and comments: Easily introduced to the sunny, fern-forbidding sites of rock gardens, holly fern woodsia cheerfully cascades and meanders among the rocks and keeps company with alpine fellow travelers. My garden plants are in neutral to slightly acid grit, with slick drainage and exposure more critical than soil makeup.

Woodsia scopulina Mountain cliff fern

Epithet means "of cliffs, twiggy."

Deciduous, 4 to 12 in. (10 to 30 cm). Zones 3 to 8.

description: The rhizome is erect. Glossy chestnut-colored stipes are brittle but not jointed. They are one-third of the frond length. Bipinnate to bipinnate-pinnatifid blades, with 10 to 15 pairs of pinnae, are widest in the middle, tapering

Furry foliage on the Kamchatka form of Woodsia polystichoides in the Peters garden.

Woodsia scopulina among mossy rocks in the mountains of British columbia.

gradually towards the apex, but more abruptly, with reduced pinnae, towards the base. They are decorated with a smattering of white hairs and helpfully and hopefully identified by small glands. Sori are near the margins, protected by strands of underlying indusia.

range and habitat: Woodsia scopulina is quite variable and Flora of North America (1993) divides it into three subspecies. The primary range, however, is in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest with disjunct populations scattered through a radius of higher elevations in the south-central U.S. environs of Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia and others in the Great Lakes area. All populations fancy crevices, but varied substrates.

culture and comments: Mountain cliff fern is not often cultivated and, in fact, difficult away from its alpine habitat of snow-protected cold winters and comparatively short summers. The species is a close cousin of Woodsia oregana and differs in very subtle variations, specifically in having shiny rather than dull stipes, which are brittle rather than flexible.

Var. appalachiana, which has bicolored scales, has occasionally been successfully introduced to gardens. Enjoy it while botanizing on scenic trips and trails where it shares the talus with an enchanting community of flowering alpine diminutives.

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