Botrychium virginianum (L.) Sw.

rattlesnake fern

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Rattlesnake fern is the most widespread member of the genus (Botrychium) in North America and the largest and most common species in New England. The tapered tip of the fertile blade is said to resemble a rattlesnake tail.

Habitat

Forests

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf divisions
  • the leaf blade is three times compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets), or more
  • the leaf blade is twice compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets)
Plant growth form
the leaves grow on a stalk that also holds the sporophore, or spore-bearing leaf
Spore-bearing leaflets
the spore-bearing fronds are dramatically different from the sterile fronds
Sorus shape
there are no sori, or they are concealed in leaf segments or hardened, capsule-like structures derived from a modified leaflet
Leaf stalk scales
there are no scales on the leaf stalk
Leaf stalk hairs
the leaf stalk has hairs
Leaf blade length
4–30 cm
Leaf vein tips
the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
Show All Characteristics
  • Growth form
    Life form
    the plant is herbaceous and terrestrial
    Life stage
    the plant is visible as a typical leaf-bearing fern (sporophyte)
    Spore-bearing leaflets
    the spore-bearing fronds are dramatically different from the sterile fronds
  • Leaves
    Features of leaves
    there are no special features on the leaves
    Leaf blade length
    4–30 cm
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blades are roughly triangular
    Leaf blade tip shape
    the tip of the leaf blade is a sharp point (acute)
    Leaf blade width
    At least 4 cm
    Leaf divisions
    • the leaf blade is three times compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets), or more
    • the leaf blade is twice compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets)
    Leaf lifespan
    the leaves drop off in winter
    Leaf stalk color
    • green
    • red or red-brown to purple or black
    • yellow to brown
    Leaf stalk hairs
    the leaf stalk has hairs
    Leaf stalk length
    70–350 mm
    Leaf stalk relative length
    the leaf stalk is more than three quarters as long as the blade
    Leaf stalk scale location
    there are no scales on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk scales
    there are no scales on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk vessels
    3 to 9 bundles
    Leaf vein branching
    the secondary veins of the leaf blade branch dichotomously (two equal branches at each branch point)
    Leaf vein tips
    the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
    Leaflet relative size
    • the bottom leaflets are about half as long as, to slightly longer than, the leaflets from the middle of the frond
    • the bottom leaflets are at least one and a half times as long as the leaflets from the middle of the frond
    Leaflet stalks
    • the leaflets are stalked
    • the leaflets do not have stalks
    Lobe or leaflet length
    23–215 mm
    Lobe or leaflet pairs
    5–24
    Lobe or leaflet shape
    the lobe or leaflet is widest below the middle and tapering at both ends; lance-shaped
    Lobe or leaflet width
    13–199 mm
    Plant growth form
    the leaves grow on a stalk that also holds the sporophore, or spore-bearing leaf
    final leaf segment margin
    the topmost lobe or leaflet of the leaf blade has an edge with teeth
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    forests
  • Spores or spore cones
    Sorus features
    there are no special features on the sorus
    Sorus shape
    there are no sori, or they are concealed in leaf segments or hardened, capsule-like structures derived from a modified leaflet
    Sporangia location
    the spores are formed on a stalk (sporangiophore)
    Sporangium type
    the spores are enclosed in a hardened, capsule-like structure (sporocarp)
    Spore forms
    there is only one type of spore present

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Rhode Island
rare (S-rank: S2), concern (code: C)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Botrypus virginianus (L.) Holub
  • Osmunda virginiana L.

Genus

Botrychium

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

14.  Botrychium virginianum (L.) Sw. N

rattlesnake fern. Botrypus virginianus (L.) Holub; Osmunda virginiana L. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Forests, usually rich, mesic types.