The genus Woodwardia, while small, includes some remarkably ornamental ferns from stately giants to a pair of eastern U.S. natives adapted to inhospitable swamplands. The genus with 13 or 14 species as well as several hybrids was named in 1793 after British botanist Thomas Woodward. Native prima
Fall color on Woodwardia areolata in the pond area at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden.
rily to north temperate zones, these species range from the United States to Costa Rica in North America, the Mediterranean area of Europe, and eastern Asia. The genus is characterized by foliage with partially netted veins and imbedded linear sori that on most species resemble links of chains or chains of sausages, earning them the common name "chain ferns." An indusial vegetative flap that folds over towards the center of the pinnae shelters the sori. All species have a preference for acid soil.
The two eastern U.S. natives, both deciduous, are noticeably different in appearance from the rest of their relatives as well as from one another. At one time they were botanically honored as members of distinct genera. The earlier names Lorinseria areolata for Woodwardia areolata and Anchistea virginica for W.vir-ginica remain as synonyms, and, as research advances, may yet return as (so beloved by gardeners) name changes.
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