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Rugulose Grape-fern (Sceptridium rugulosum)

Life history

Species overview

Rugulose Grape-fern (Sceptridium rugulosum), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on sandy shorelines of fluctuating lakes and ponds. The optimal identification period for this species is early June through late August.

Synonyms: Botrychium multifidum f. dentatum, Botrychium ternatum


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Stalk of the sterile laminae less than 2 mm in diamter; basal pinnae of frond distant from adjacent pinnae, some blades, therefore, ternate; pinnae divided to tip of blade (unlike B. oneidense and B. dissectum, which tend to be merely lobed toward the tip), and apex of pinnae of the laminae acute (unlike the rounded apex of B. multifidum); segments of blade somewhat channeled or concave in living specimens (unlike the flattened, planar blades of B. multifidum).
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Basal, fertile portion of frond is an erect spike that is 6 to 19 cm long and slightly to many times longer than the sterile portion, pinnately branched at its apex, each branch and brachlet bears two rows of sporangia not or only slightly embedded in the branch.
  • Leaf characteristics: Frond deltate to broadly lanceolate, 2.5 to 9 cm long, 2.5 to 9 cm wide, 2 to 3 times pinnate with ovate pinnae having an acute apex and margins entire to irregularly toothed or finely lobed; pinnae divided to the tip of the frond.


  • Blooming phenology:
  • Fruiting phenology: late September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early June through late August


  • Growth form: Fern
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Botrychium dissectum, B. multifidum, Calamagrostis canadensis, Solidago altissima, Pinus banksiana.

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 Rugulose Grape-fern (Sceptridium rugulosum). 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 Sceptridium rugulosum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG3
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 on sandy shorelines of fluctuating lakes and ponds.
  • Soils: Moist soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Rugulose Grape-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
Inland Beach 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Rugulose Grape-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.

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.

Management guidance

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

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Avoid disturbance to shorelines and the forest-beach interface.


Rugulose Grape-fern Photo.

Botrychium rugulosum is a globally rare fern that is known from two locations in the Northwest Sands ecological landscape.

Photo © N.L. Taylor.

Rugulose Grape-fern Photo.

Photo © Stephen L. Solheim.

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: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
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