Marsh Fern

Marsh_Fern_jpgA few ferns, including Marsh Fern, have two kinds of fronds–large sterile (vegetative) and smaller fertile (reproductive) ones. The seeds of ferns, properly defined as spores, have been thought to posses mythical properties that were most powerful during the summer and winter solstices. At Christmas the spores symbolized the hidden fire of the winter sun, while in summer fern spores collected within three days of Midsummer’s Eve and were said to glow like gold or yellow fire. Myth holds that whomever holds the spores on Midsummer’s Eve and climbs a mountain will discover a vein of gold.  In Russia, a similar tradition was that if the fern spores were tossed into the air on Midsummer’s Eve, treasure will be found buried at the spot where they fall. In Medieval textbooks, fern spores was believed to have the property of making a person who swallowed it invisible, defending against evil spirits, and protecting against thunder and lightning.  These beliefs encouraged growing ferns on walls and roofs of houses.


Snuff Box Fern, Shield Fern


Thelypteris palustris


Freshwater Wetlands






up to 28 inches


Spores June to October


Newfoundland to Florida ~ Statewide in New Jersey, less in Pine Barrens



Erect fern ~ Rhizomes black and branched ~ Stalks 9 inches long, smooth, slender, pale green above and black at base, 12 or more pair lance shaped leaflets with rounded ends ~ Fertile and sterile leaves (fronds) ~ Spores born on undersides of fertile leaves near the midrib