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ferns

Licorice ferns in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

When Ferns Grow on Trees

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In the depths of winter, an amazing emergence of emerald green ferns appear on cliffs, rocks, and forest tree trucks throughout the coast redwood forest. These delicate beauties are Polypodium glycyrrhiza, commonly known as licorice fern. The species name, glycyrrhiza, means sweet root in Greek and is aptly named because the fern’s rhizome tastes faintly of licorice.

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Researcher Emily Burns noticed that half the ferns in coast redwood forests were evergreen and half were deciduous. Deciduous ferns turn white in the fall while the evergreen ferns stay vibrant green.

Winter white ferns

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We may not have a typical white winter wonderland here in the coast redwood forest, but we do have spectacular displays of white leaves that appear this time of year. Half of the fern species that live in the coast Continued

Secret Life of Ferns

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Ferns are under-appreciated, despite the fact that as a group they have more than 12,000 species worldwide and their lineage is even older than the redwoods! Maybe I’m a fern nerd (well, no maybe about it actually), but I can’t Continued

Researcher Emily Burns noticed that half the ferns in coast redwood forests were evergreen and half were deciduous. Deciduous ferns turn white in the fall while the evergreen ferns stay vibrant green.

Deciduous Ferns May Hold Advantage as Climate Changes

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In 2010, funded by Save the Redwoods League and the National Science Foundation, Professor Jarmila Pittermann and Burns began a study comparing the leaves of evergreen and deciduous ferns. Interested in their response to drought, they chose midsummer, just before the deciduous ferns would shed their leaves, in the drier southern part of coast redwoods’ range (in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Big Sur). They expected that evergreen leaves, which are thicker, would show fewer signs of water stress. Learn more about this research.

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