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- Kevin Doyle
Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)
Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), a Wisconsin 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
- 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.
- Blooming phenology:
- Fruiting phenology: mid to late summer
- Optimum time to identify: late May through late September
- 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.
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.
|Federal Status in Wisconsin||none|
|Tracked by NHI||Y|
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.
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).
|Northern Mesic Forest--young seral||1|
|Northern Mesic Forest--early seral||3|
|Northern Mesic Forest--mid seral||3|
|Northern Mesic Forest--late seral||3|
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.
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.
These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.
- 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.
- Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
- 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.
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.
Links to additional Male Fern information
Other links related to vascular plants (all exit the DNR website)
- Wisconsin Flora
- NatureServe Explorer
- Atlas of Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Flora - Wisconsin State Herbarium
- USDA - NRCS Plants Database
- USGS Midwestern Wetland Flora - field office guide to plant species
- Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Herbarium
- Intermountain Herbarium Grasses of North America
- Orchids of Wisconsin
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.