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Ferns of the Sierra (1960) by Robert J. Rodin


Probably no group of plants is so greatly admired and so little known as our ferns and their allies. Many people have been attracted to ferns by their grace and beauty but have failed to continue their interest when a wall of technical terms appeared to block their way. In this do-it-yourself age the purpose of this book is to help the amateur as well as the trained botanist to gain a better understanding of this group of plants in the Sierra Nevada. Although the main purpose of this book is the identification of these plants, it is hoped that the additional material will show ferns are sometimes useful and decorative.

Identification of ferns is not a difficult task. Ferns are much easier to identify than the more numerous flowers and trees in our area. There are only about 35 ferns in the Sierra Nevada and about 75 in the Pacific States, according to Abrams (see references). The terms used for the identification of ferns are somewhat different than the terms used for most flowering plants. With a few new words one can master the identification of most ferns found in an afternoon’s outing. Of course, with the aid of illustrations the key can almost be ignored. If an illustration appears identical to a fresh specimen one is identifying, always confirm the species by reading the description near the photograph.

There is disagreement among botanists regarding the scientific names of many ferns. Although plant names are based on priorities, the final priorities have in some cases not yet been decided. The name believed by this author to have priority is the scientific name given here. Synonyms sometimes preferred by other botanists are indicated below the scientific names. It should be recognized that common names vary from one locality to another, but the most commonly used name is the one given.

Do you have any native ferns in your garden? Many amateur gardeners are finding that the beauty of ferns can be taken into their gardens, sometimes to fill a cool, shady corner, sometimes in the crevices of a rock garden, for ferns have a variety of habitats. The culture of ferns is not difficult. Although some ferns do poorly in gardens, and the rock ferns in dried habitats are not green and fresh during the dry summer months, many ferns grow easily with a minimum of care. The Giant Chain Fern (Woodwardia), the Sword Fern (Polystichum) and various species of Maiden Hair and Five Finger Ferns (Adiantum) are among the favorites which are commonly cultivated. Many native ferns are available in nurseries. They do best with yearly applications of leaf mold or peat moss, and, of course, most ferns require frequent watering after the rainy season.

May we insert a word of caution to the reader? In our National Parks, State Parks, and certain other areas NO PLANTS ARE TO BE REMOVED, as these areas would soon be devoid of their natural beauty. Soon nothing would remain but a barren landscape. Can you imagine what Yosemite National Park would look like if each of the 1,500,000 visitors this year were to pick one fern or flower? It would be a major catastrophe! Specimens should be collected elsewhere at least 100 yards from roads or trails, or obtained from your nursery.

An attempt has been made to include habitat and close-up photographs of as many species as possible. For background on all close-up photographs, 1/2 inch squares are used to show the scale.

A few species of ferns and their allies have not been collected or photographed by the author and are not included. Most of the field work has been conducted in Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Sonora Pass area and adjacent foothills. Many of these ferns extend to the coastal parts of California, southward into Mexico, or northward into Washington. General information about distribution is given with each species.

The author wishes especially to thank Douglass Hubbard, Park Naturalist, Yosemite National Park, and his staff for their assistance and for use of facilities during several summers which has made this project possible. Help was received from Harry Robinson, Park Naturalist, and Richard Burns, Assistant Park Naturalist, Sequoia National Park. Richard G. Prasil, Park Naturalist, Lassen Volcanic National Park, provided a list of ferns known from Lassen Park. Paul F. McCrary of Yosemite National Park helped with editing.

Ideas contained herein have come from Jepson’s Manual of the Flowering Plants of California, Abram’s Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States, and Frye’s Ferns of the Northwest. Broun’s Index of North American Ferns was the authority for many of the synonyms and common names as well as total distribution of a species. As early as 1939 the author spent time in the Sierra collecting plants, including many ferns. In the spring of 1946 enroute to a ranger naturalist position in Yosemite for the summer, he was given a copy of A Yosemite Flora by Mrs. Carlotta Hall, one of the authors. Enclosed in the book were notes written by her to bring the fern information up-to-date. That book has been carried on many trails in the park and much of the information given by her is incorporated here.

The help of Rolla Tryon, Curator of Ferns at Gray Herbarium, Harvard University, and his wife, Alice Tryon, is gratefully acknowledged. The Tryons generously assisted in identifying ferns and reading the manuscript for correctness of fern classification. Thanks are due also to Herbert L. Mason, Director of the Herbarium, University of California at Berkeley, for his encouragement and the loan of herbarium specimens. Much help in locating specimens to photograph in the field was received from material in the Yosemite National Park Herbarium, especially ferns collected by Mrs. Enid Michael Benson and Carl Sharsmith. Fossils were photographed with the assistance of Michael McRae. Robert F. Hoover and Glenn Noble read the manuscript and made helpful suggestions.

The illustrations are original drawings or photographs by the author unless otherwise noted. Photographs were taken with a 4 by 5 inch Speed Graphic Camera. All background grids in this book are 1/2 inch squares.

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management