For each different species of plant found on the Domain, the 13,000 acres owned by Sewanee: The University of the South, we collect a specimen as proof of its presence. This data is compiled so that every specimen in the Sewanee Herbarium has its own record with information about where it was found, who found it, when they found it, and so forth. Using this database, I can pinpoint the best times and places to search for plants – leading me to begin the second installment of my series Exploring the Sewanee Herbarium with a fern.
Asplenium rhizophyllum (Walking Fern) is a common evergreen fern with triangular leaf blades that distinctively taper to a thin point. These leathery leaf blades can grow vegetatively, with the tip of the leaf blade rooting into the ground. It is this ability to rapidly spread through vegetative growth that the walking fern gets its name. The fern also reproduces with spores, which are stored in structures called sori. Sori can be seen on the underside of fertile leaf blades in a scattered pattern that follows the veins. The spores are released in the summer and fall. You can find the walking fern in a bed of moss near a limestone outcrop or sandstone rockhouse. The winter months are an easy time to find this evergreen – it has been spotted multiple times in Shakerag Hollow and Lost Cove.