Central Coast Ferns - Part 2: Part Shade to Shade (smaller ferns. And a banana slug.)

Above is the source of this month's banner. Who says ferns aren't colorful? You just have to look. Below you'll see a picture showing the other side of the polypody, which you normally see.

BTW I decided to make this a three parter as I'm running out of time this morning - such is the working blogger's life - and tomorrow I may get down to where the local Western Chain Ferns are growing, with a tripod. So this post is focused on the smaller ferns that grow around here in the shade, mostly on rocky walls.

Polypodium californicum
, California polypody

California polypody is about the most common small fern around here, growing on shady rock faces. They often colonize a large area. Below you can see the sori bumps showing on the upper surface.

Each blade arises separately from the rock face. But the name means multiple feet, and I guess their rhizomes have multiple knobby branches. When they are just getting established they look more like this.

And here's a picture I like, looking down on them spilling down a slope. Unfortunately flash is sometimes the only way to get a sharp shot of shady ferns, if you don't like hiking with a tripod. These were at a local park.

Adiantum aleuticum, Five Fingered Fern
Another wonderful small fern that grows on shady, moist rock faces is Adiantum aleuticum, five fingered fern. It is a type of maidenhair fern. I haven't noticed it right around here, but at De Laveaga park in Santa Cruz it covers the rock face above a long stretch of the main trail, which used to be a logging road.

(There is some irony in the fact that so many of the trails in our local parks were originally logging roads. Old-growth redwoods built San Francisco and other Bay Area towns in the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th.)

It is a very pretty fern indeed and its wiry black stems were much prized by native people for making patterns in special baskets that were used to hold obsidian knives for a jumping ceremony.

This year I'm not going to miss Ohlone Day at Henry Cowell park, Saturday September 11. It's a wonderful day out for the family and you learn a lot and get to participate in traditional crafts like building a tule reed boat. Plus - there's traditional dancing!

Adiantum jordanii, California Maidenhair Fern
I see this one around here, on shady chaparral slopes. Another beautiful delicate yet strong fern with wiry black stems, obviously related to Five Fingered Fern.

And around here, where there be moist places, there be banana slugs (Ariolimax dolichophallus). Wonderfully large, often five inches long, and the mascot of UC Santa Cruz, where my older daughter, whose hand you see below, gained a degree in anthropology.

-- Go Slugs!


I've seen a LOT of new California Polypody popping up in our woodland this winter, no doubt due to all the rain. I hadn't noticed much of it before, and don't see very many 'established' clumps. I just love walking past a mossy tree trunk, or a fallen mossy log, and seeing Polypody sprouting on it. I've never seen five-fingered fern here, and I've looked for it a bit too. It's so beautiful, I hope there's some hiding here somewhere. Oh well, we do have maidenhair, and of course lots and lots of banana slugs!
Town Mouse said…
Oh, lovely ferns! I wish they'd grow better in my garden. Maybe it's just a little too dry here.
Country Mouse said…
TM, I'll bet you could grow some under your redwood, near the "ruined" Buddha head. Oooh I can see it now! We'll have to experiment with transplanting some clumps. Between me and my friendly neighbor, you can have coastal wood fern, golden back fern, maidenhair, coffee fern, and maybe polypody - that one might really prefer more damp than you have. It would get me into fern propagation by division, which I want to do. How's your Wooodwardia fimbriata doing? I have a photo of it from last year, as a fallback in case I can't get a decent picture tomorrow, down the road by the river.
Christine said…
So ladylike. I wish they didn't have to disappear in the Summer so I could enjoy them all year. The polypodys look like little stair steps going up the side of the rock.

TM- I've had much success with Polystichum munitum- one's in full sun and well, it's still alive at least!
Town Mouse said…
Well ferns were in the design for under the redwoods. I've probably planted 20 at least, and each year a few die. The rest looks not so happy most of the time. This may be a side-effect of having redwoods where they don't really belong: They suck the moisture right out of the soil. And ferns do like moisture.
I suspect they'd also like sandier soil or better drainage. Regardless, it's been a challenge...
I've never seen a Five Fingered fern. Love it! Around my garden, a sword fern is a king. Very good pictures and information, Town Mouse! I don't like slugs, but this one has interesting color.
Brad said…
Now these ferns I know. Maybe because I pay more attention to ferns in shady forests. Great pics and info. Five finger and maidenhair are two of my favorite ferns.
I love the texture of the two Adiantum species. The first fern I ever developed a teen crush on was another species of the genus.

For a while I didn't think ferns were possible in most of my garden areas but with the winter-growing ones I really should use them more.