Drought Distress

Emily Burns encourages this crunchy sword fern to hang in there a little longer.
Emily Burns encourages this crunchy sword fern to hang in there a little longer.

I stumbled across a sea of sword fern that is showing signs of drought during my annual Fern Watch field campaign last month. Along the Damnation Creek Trail at Del Norte Redwoods State Park, the typically green carpet of sword fern was undeniably marked by dried, brown, crispy fern fronds. A typically wet temperature forest perched on a ridge, this forest must be reeling from the below-average rainfall and warm spring.

Del Norte Redwoods in May 2008 had the lush carpet of green sword fern I expected to see this year, but no luck.
Del Norte Redwoods in May 2008 had the lush carpet of green sword fern I expected to see this year, but no luck.

 

By the looks of it, the newest cohort of fronds that emerged this spring appear to still be green while the older fronds are showing uncharacteristic signs of strain. It may be that the less-than-ideal weather of late has triggered the ferns to drop their old fronds sooner than normal to conserve water for their new ones. I think the ferns will pull through, though I’m still in shock at seeing my lovely ferns in such a state.

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Dry sword fern, June 2014.
Dry sword fern, June 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California,...

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