Southern Grape Fern - Sparse-lobe Grape Fern
Botrychium biternatum (Savigny) L. Underwood
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's-Tongue) Family
The plant is an upright perennial with a short, erect rhizome and clustered fleshy roots. The base of the stalk contains the bud for next year's growth (frond). The frond has an anterior fertiler and a posterior sterile segment or blade. Its preferred habitat is pastures, fields, thickets, cemeteries, bottoms and damp clearings. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
The blade is thin and submembranaceous, pinnate (compound; leaflets arranged on both sides of the stalk) to bi-pinnate (double or twice pinnate). The few blades are mostly unlobed, or part of them will be slightly lobed. Most segments are broadly ovate, obovate, or broadly rounded at the summit and remains green over winter when in a protected woodland environment.
Fruit is spores borne in panicles; oblique or conical. The spores are pitted and mature in late autumn.
Similar plants and synonyms: B. multifidum (Gmel.), B. intermedium (Eat.), B. lunaria (L.), B. simplex (E. Hitchc), and B. lanceolatum (Gmel.)
Although the Grape Fern baffles botanists, it is easy to separate it from other species. Nearly all species in this group have a single stalk with a leafy branch at the side and an upright spore-producing spike. Once thought to be rare, these ferns are often overlooked because they resemble other plants or because they are hidden by other vegetation.