Ferns are tricky creatures.

Of course. What could be simpler? Classifying a fern from Bunica’s backyard- a fern that stays green all year long, though we’ve noticed it tends to be more verdant during the spring. We knew that the “leaf” of a fern is called a frond, but beyond that, ferns were new territory.

According to the American Fern Society:

The frond is divided into two main parts, the stipe (leaf stalk or petiole) and the blade (the leafy expanded portion of the frond). The blade may be undivided to finely cut, each degree of division having a specific term.

“Pinnate” blades are divided into leaflets (pinnae), with each leaflet narrowly attached to the central stem (called the rachis in this leafy part of the frond). Blades more divided are designated as bipinnate or even tripinnate with some divided four or five times. The ultimate division are called pinnules. Another type of division is one where the green leafy tissue isn’t completely separated from the rachis but rather it spreads along the rachis, instead this degree of division is called “pinnatifid”.

Fronds vary greatly in size, from tree ferns with 12 foot fronds to the mosquito ferns with fronds only 1/16 of an inch long.

Then we discovered the wonders of the illustrated glossary at the Hardy Fern Library. First we tried to sketch the fern, but all the tiny details sapped away at our patience reservoir.

Next we tried to dip the fern in green paint and make fern prints, but it was difficult to get the leaflets to stay down when we pulled our fingers up.

Then we decided it might be easier to paint around the edges of the fern and, in so doing, capture its outline.

Time to try something else. So we painted the ferns down with the paint hoping to paint-glue them to the paper. One nice result from this experiment was that the green paint really brought the veins out in relief, so we were able to get a more thorough picture of the plant veins.

But the fern didn’t adhere. Enter Mod Podge and a slightly spastic Alina dousing the fern in Mod Podge and thereby destroying the cool green paint vein effect all so she could get that fern to live in its horrible new home atop a piece of paper.

Alas, we failed to classify our fern because classifying ferns during the winter is something only fools and amateur naturalists attempt. You see, the easiest way to classify a fern is by the pattern, arrangement, and size of the sori located on the underside of the frond leaves. Sori are clusters of dust-sized spores, which the fern uses instead of seeds to transmit its genes.

The fancy, complicated, exciting life cycle of a fern kept our attention for quite some time. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, the sori are not evident except during the spring, when the plans begin their reproductive process. No sori means our fern could be one of many

All this fern study left me hankering for some post-Soviet poetry, the kind filled with secrets, skeletons, and hastily-erected identities made from cheap plastic. Pardon me while I indulge in the cure. More fern finagles in the morn.

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