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Monday, May 17, 2010

Moonwort, but Which One?

While we are doing mysteries, here's another. This is definitely a moonwort, or grape fern, Botrychium sp, but I can't decide which one. A few years ago, someone who really, really knows plants said that some growing in the same location were B. matricariifolium, the daisy-leaved grape fern.

But here is my problem... look at the leaves on this plant.

grape fern

They aren't subdivided at all. That's not right. Common moonwort has fan-shaped leaves, so it might be that, except that pictures usually show it as having broad leaves that almost overlap. Now look at this one.

grape fern

These are divided quite a lot. That's more like the Daisy-leaved species. So are there two different species growing together?

grape fern

I don't think so, because here are both kinds of leaves on stalks closely side by side. Perhaps it is Little Grape Fern, B. simplex. It looks like the drawing in my book, but not much like the photo at

Well, whichever one it is, none of them are very common. I am SO pleased to know where there is a patch that comes up each May. These are very small, the tallest one is about 4 inches, but most are about 2 inches. Since they are so tiny, you have to really look sharp to even find them. There are quite a few plants this year... the most I've seen at one time. Maybe I should count them, do my own little census! It was hard to take pictures without stepping on any. And, as you can see, I had a hard time getting the camera to focus on the little things.


rainfield61 said...

If I keep wondering about the id of those fern, I'll not complete my hike in a few days.

I am non-expert to know their names.

Duxbury Ramblers said...

We only have one Moonwort B. lunaria, grows all over the British Isles although as you say hard to spot.
Your two do look like different species but as you say are they - I was once watching what I thought was a strange plant and it totally fooled me right up to flowering - it was the size it was enormous - it was Shepherd's Purse - Capsella bursa-pastoris this one was straight out of Jack & the Beanstalk.

RNSANE said...

You really have to be on top of things to spot these little ferns. It must be exciting!

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Shark, just wanted to drop by and let you know you got the right answer on my what is it post. Somehow I knew you would, thanks :)

Ann said...

I probably would have walked right by them and never even seen them. You must be keeping a very watchful eye on everything

Lin said...

Be careful where you step. :) Don't squish 'em!

Katherine said...

I've always wanted to know what moonwort looked like. Of course I am the type to plant something, know it's name and then completely forget what it is!

Ratty said...

I understand your touch of frustration in trying to identify things. I have that mild frustration constantly in my mind.

One thing I've been doing to try to work out the problem with macro focus is that while I've been sitting here at the computer I've been practicing my macro shots with my camera. I've discovered so far that it's mostly a matter of getting the exact right distance to an object. I'll keep trying until I figure it out completely. I'll make sure I share my findings.

Sharkbytes said...

rainfield- yes, the IDs do slow me down a lot, but I'm obsessed with knowing.

Carol- how funny... to be fooled by a tricky Shepherd's Purse. Sometimes plants are so perverse.

Carmen- I know where they come up each year now. I counted 34 plants today.

Jo- hey! Thanks. It was fun.

Ann- I watch that spot very closely in May so that I don't miss those little guys!

Lin- I try really hard. They are very special.

Katherine- you might remember these, they are pretty distinctive!

Ratty- I want to know them all, really well! But part of that is seeing the same plant in different conditions so that you get familiar with the range of its appearances. As to the camera. I did some online research today. I have the SX 10 IS (I think you got the 20), and it gets great marks on all sorts of things, but everyone is very quiet about closeups. I think I need to begin to learn how to go to full manual mode. These pics need a different f stop to focus the whole plant.

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