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Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)


Life history

Species overview

Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), a State Special Concern plant, is found in mesic hemlock-hardwood forests, often on rocky basaltic slopes. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through late September.

Synonyms: Polypodium filix-mas

Identification

  • Distinguishing characteristics: Pinnules and segments serrately lobed, barely spinulose; rachis with hair-like scales; petioles less than 1/4 the length of the leaves.
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Sori round, protected by a reniform indusium, appear in a single series on each side of segment midrib.
  • Leaf characteristics: Fronds oblanceolate to rhombic, 20 to 80 cm long, 10 to 30 cm wide, commonly widest above the middle, tapering to a truncate or obtuse base, broadly acute or obtuse below the acute-acuminate apex, twice pinnate or twice pinnate-pinnatified with many segments contracted at the base, the segments serrate to lobed, barely spinulose, the laminae eglandular.

Phenology

  • Blooming phenology:
  • Fruiting phenology: mid to late summer
  • Optimum time to identify: late May through late September

Other

  • Growth form: Fern
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccharum, Betula alleghaniensis, Tsuga canadensis, Ostrya virginiana, Athyrium angustum, Quercus rubra, Adiantum pedatum.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.


Documented locations of Dryopteris filix-mas in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of March 2012.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in mesic hemlock-hardwood forests, often on rocky basaltic slopes.
  • Soils: Moist soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Male Fern. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Northern Mesic Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Male Fern. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) has very few known occurrences in the state and is of the highest priority for conservation; we encourage you to consult with your District Ecologist or NHI Botanist for specific recommendations for your site.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.
  • Avoid direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Maintain high forest canopy cover; this species requires shaded habitat conditions.

Photos


Male Fern  [Photo #1308]

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Male Fern  [Photo #23927]

Photo ©  Biopix.

Male Fern  [Photo #23928]

Photo ©  USDA-NRCS.

Male Fern  [Photo #23528]

Photo © Chris Noll.


Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Thursday, August 07, 2014
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition