Seeking Winter Grapefern

Published 10:58 pm Sunday, February 9, 2014

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) and botanist David Campbell needs your help in locating this month’s “Most Wanted-Plant,” Winter Grapefern.

This month’s installment of Polk County’s Most Wanted is an unusual member of the Fern family, Winter Grapefern (Sceptridium lunarioides). Winter Grapefern is aptly named, as it completes its life cycle between November and very early spring. Winter Grapefern is very small, and extremely easy to miss. Often, the only clue to its presence is the (relatively) long spore-bearing stalk emerging from its basal leaves.

Winter Grapefern occurs in dry fields, roadsides, and, oddly enough, old cemeteries.  In fact, most occurrences of this fern have been documented from old, rural cemeteries in the southeast. The Winter Grapefern benefits from the perpetual mowing of cemeteries, and also from the fact that many older, smaller cemeteries do not use herbicides to control weeds.

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Winter Grapefern thus far, has never been collected in Polk County, although it has been reported for Burke and Davie Counties in the past. Given the great responses from readers of Polk County’s Most Wanted thus far, hopefully some intrepid persons will consider visiting an old cemetery and crawling on their hands and knees to locate on of our tiniest and most fascinating ferns.

If you think that you have seen this plant, or know where it might be located, please contact PAC at 828-859-5060, or e-mail comments, questions, or photos to,

The purpose of this project is to gain a better understanding of the flora and fauna in Polk County and document the species present in the county.

PAC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization (land trust) founded in 1989 to protect and conserve the area’s natural resources (PAC’s mission). PAC works with area landowners to ensure the long-term protection of their property through voluntary conservation easements (agreements) which enable landowners to maintain ownership of their property, preserving precious natural resources (open lands, forests, wildlife habitat, scenic vistas, farmland, stream banks, etc.), and potentially obtain significant federal, state, and local tax benefits. PAC works diligently to provide leadership to encourage conservation and provide education programs emphasizing native species appreciation and responsible land use practices to help – save the places you love.

– article written 

by David Campbell