Sunday, March 01, 2015

A mouthful of centipedes

Rows of spores on a hart's-tongue fern in Laurie's shade garden.

Asplenium scolopendrium, I think.

A cluster of spores makes up a sorus, from the ancient Greek for "pile, heap". In the hart's-tongue, the sori are long rows; in our common native ferns, they're round dots. These long sori reminded somebody of a centipede, so the fern was named, in Latin, for a centipede: "scolopendrium".

(They look more like caterpillars to me, but according to the naming conventions, the first person to describe a plant or critter gets to name it.)

Here's the whole fern. And the fronds are supposed to look like deer's tongues. With centipedes on the underside.

The imagination boggles.


  1. Never heard it described that way! We won't see the unfurled fronds with 'centipedes' til June.

  2. I've never seen a fern without serrated leaves. Thanks for the lesson. - Margy


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