Biota of the Blue Ridge: Maidenhair Fern

The delicate tiara of an unfolding Northern Maidenhair frond

This time of year happens far too fast. Where is the slow motion, the pause button for April? You can feel the energy pulsing underground, a power that will even today across the Southern Mountains push a trillion tiny leaves from their protective bud scales for the first time into the light of the sun. And it begins.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks so much for the wonderful shots of flowers and plants – I’ll try to memorize them so I recognize the plants when I see them in the future! I have two species of maidenhair fern on my property here in South Florida – it is such a delicate and beautiful fern. I’ve been doing a bit of research this morning on verbesina alternifolia and verbesina occidentalis to try to find out more about how it fits into the ecosystem. My place in Floyd is over-run with one or the other of the plants (perhaps both?) and I wonder if its exuberance suppresses the growth of other plants. I did discover that both plants are natives but why are they in the woods? The sources I read said that the plants are considered weeds of the pasture and roadsides. Interesting.