Netted chain fern is a deciduous fern of eastern North
America which typically occurs in woodland swamps and bogs. Although
native to this area, it is considered rare in most of North America.
Its preferred habitat is shaded swamps, wet woods, and can grow
in slightly brackish water.
The leaves are glossy green fronds that emerge pinkish
in the spring and unroll to 1 to 2 feet long. The fronds typically
have 8 to 10 pairs of lance-shaped leaflets (pinnae) that will
have small marginal teeth, arising in the summer. Fertile fronds
are the same length as the sterile fronds, but have narrower
leaf divisions. The pinnae of both fronds have netted veins and
the sori (spores) on the fertile fronds are arranged in chain-like
rows parallel to the midribs, hence the common name.
This fern is similar in appearance to the much more common
sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), except the latter
generally grows taller and has beaded, woody-like fertile fronds
with smooth-edged leaflets on the sterile fronds.