Ferns have a different set of identifying characteristics than flowering plants - please read Fern Chracteristics. In general, we identify fronds (the leaf), pinnae (leaflets of a frond), and sori (reproductive clusters found on the underside of the pinnae.)
Pteridaceae produce their shiny leaves in clusters, with petioles (leaf stems) brown to black. The leaves are at least bipinaately compound (symetrical around a major axis and sub-axis), and carry the sori (reproductive clusters) along the margins of the leaf or lobes. The sori are not covered by a separate flap (indusia). The plants are rarely over 50 cm tall.
The family produces many small and delicate ferns throughout the Bay Area - lace ferns, maidenhairs, coffee, bird's foot, and the popular five-finger fern (Adiantum aleuticum) found in many native gardens. They are appear to all be native species - I guess members of this family don't travel too well.
On Montara Mountain, we can find Adiantum jordanii (California Maiden-hair) and Pentagramma triangularis (Golden Back Fern)
Fronds: 2 - 5 inches long, bipinnately compound, with bright brown/black stems.
Pinnae: Bright green above, powdery yellow/gold below. Edges slightly turned under to give a very dimensional look.
Sori: Dark black, densely outlining the veins on the underside of the pinnae.
Location: Damp shaded trail cuts. Above Green Valley on San Pedro Road in McNee Ranch State Park, Brooks Falls Overlook trail in San Pedro Valley County Park.
Status: Common - Native.
Further description & Comment: 4 - 10 inches tall, often found as solitary plants or in small colonies in sparse but damp areas. The distinctive golden underside is unique to this fern.
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