According to writer Kurt Vonnegut, we are ending the season of “unlocking.” We’re entering spring, the season of unfurling fiddleheads. Also known as croziers (hooked staffs), these coiled fern fronds have characteristic colors, textures, and shapes. Look closely, how many different fiddleheads can you find? 

Covered in shiny white hairs and arching back as they unfurl: Christmas Fern fiddleheads.
Dotted with dark brown scales: Lady Fern fiddleheads.
Light magenta with wispy white hairs: Maidenhair Fern fiddleheads.
Deep maroon, smooth, and growing in wet areas: Sensitive Fern fiddleheads. Also look for the dark, bead-like clusters of the fertile fronds that persist through the winter. 
Coated in fuzzy white wool: Interrupted Fern fiddleheads.
Covered in shiny, bronze scales, with a celery stalk-like groove in the stem: Ostrich Fern fiddleheads.
Also be on the lookout for their namesake feather-like fertile fronds that remain from last year. Ostrich Fern fiddleheads are edible, but be sure you can correctly identify this species! And to harvest these fiddleheads sustainably, take only one of any ten Ostrich Fern fiddleheads you find. 

2 thoughts on “Looking Closely at Fiddleheads

  1. Thank you so much for these informative photos! Lydia, our 2 year old granddaughter, and I were looking at some yesterday. I did not grow up in “fern country” so am learning what grows on our property. Now I can give her some more accurate explanations.

  2. So glad you have been out exploring ferns with your granddaughter, Ginny! Enjoy getting to know the ferns on your property!

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