Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

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.)

The fronds of Dryopteridaceae are all alike; that is, there are no special reproductive ones for the sori. Instead, the sori. are on all the vegetative fronds, either round or somewhat elongated and covered by indusia, small flaps or disks.

On Montara Mountain, representatives of ths family include:

Athyrium filix-femina
(Western Lady Fern)

Dryopteris arguta
(Coastal Wood Fern)

Polystichum minutum
(Western Sword Fern)



Athyrium filix-femina;
Western Lady Fern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Fronds: 4 feet long, radiating from central clumps.

Pinnae: Light green and delicate looking.

Sori: Kidney or horseshoe shaped; along veins on underside of all mature pinnae.

Location: Usually along or near creek banks and permanently wet areas.

Status: Not So Common - Native.

Athyrium filix-femina

Further description & Comment: 2 to 5 ft tall, fronds radiating from a common clump; often in small colonies of a few to many plants.

Western Lady Fern is not easily found around Montara Mountain - small colonies can be found along Martini Creek in McNee Ranch State Park, the creeks in San Pedro Valley County Park, and other year-round wet areas. Obviously, it prefers a steady water source.

It can be very similar in appearance to a large Wood Fern - Dryopteris arguta. but can be distinguished by the distinctly kidney-shaped sori (below right) on the underside of the pinnae.

600x450 JPEG - 56K

600x450 JPEG - 60K



Dryopteris arguta
Coastal Wood Fern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Fronds: 1 - 2 feet long, in open, graceful clumps, ruffled look.

Pinnae: Fringed tips and sides.

Sori: In two rows on undersides of pinnae.

Location: Nearly all trails in sheltered areas.

Status: Common - Native.

Dryopteris arguta
600x450 JPEG - 48K

Further description & Comment: 1 - 2 feet tall. Fronds pinnate to nearly or fully bipinnate. Bright green.

One of the friendlier ferns - it feels as soft as it looks.

600x450 JPEG - 40K



Polystichum minutum:
Western Sword Fern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Fronds: 2 to 4 feet long, in dense clumps.

Pinnae: Tips slightly toothed; small sword "hilt" at base.

Sori: In rows along veins on underside of all pinnae.

Location: All trails and areas.

Status: Common - Native.

Polystichum minutum
600x450 JPEG - 72K

600x450 JPEG - 52K

Further description & Comment: Along with Pteridum aquilinum (Bracken Fern), probably the most commonly encountered fern on Montara Mountain.

Image at left shows front and back views of pinnae. Note the arrangement of the Sori and the "hilt" at the base of each pinnae that gives the plant its common name of Sword Fern.


Return to Dipsacaceae (Teasel Family)

Continue to Equisetaceae (Horsetail Family)

  Plant Listings by: Family & Latin Name Common Name Color
Top of Page     Home