Struthiopteris spicant – Deer fern
Synonyms/former names: Blechnum spicant
At a Glance
- Family: Blechnaceae
- Plant type: fern
- Distribution: native to Pacific coastal regions from northern California to Alaska and in northern Idaho along the Rocky Mountains also around Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa
- Habitat: shaded locations in moist to wet forests, wet slopes under alders, stream banks, occasional bogs, from low to subalpine elevations.
- Height: 2’x 2’. The non-reproductive fronds are generally low to the ground, while the reproductive fronds are taller.
- Reproduction: by spores. Distributed near margin, protected by a thin translucent brown membrane (indusium) along leaflet edge
- Leaves: 2 types of fronds: sterile fronds usually pressed to the ground, 20-80cm long/tall, evergreen, leathery, stipes are purple-brown, leaflets range from 35-70 pairs, widely spaced and oblong, tapering at both ends; fertile leaves are similarly shaped, but they shoot straight up from the center of the base, deciduous with narrower leaflets that will often roll up at base.
- Generation: perennial
- Notable features: similarly shaped to sword fern, but leaflets are attached directly to the rachis along their entire length, whereas sword fern leaflets are attached to stalks (and possess a thumb-like appendage at the base of each “leaflet”). 2 types of fronds are noteworthy.
Restoration and Conservation
- Important winter food for deer and elk and year round cover for small mammals and amphibians
- Hesquiat hunters and travelers would chew on the young leaves as a hunger suppressant
- The leaves could also be used as medicine for skin sores: observed by Hesquiat elders who saw deer rub the leaves on their antler stubs after they had fallen off
- NAEB: http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=blechnum+spicant
- Pojar, Jim, and A. MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Lone Pine, 1994, p420.
- USDA: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=BLSP
- WTU: https://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Struthiopteris%20spicant
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