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Mountain Home to West Point - Ferns and Grasses
Most noticeable plants first


Field ID Tips

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Western Sword Fern

Polystichum munitum


Shady, damp areas


Wood Fern Family


·  Common under redwoods

·  Each frond has a central stem and alternating “leaves”, ˝” across and about 4 inches long.

·  The base of each “leaf” is wider near the stem, reminding one of the handle guard of a sword.

·  [3] [5] [7] Common

Sword Fern--2012-01-11 South Mt Tam

Sword Fern-13--2012-12-29 Tamalpa Trail and Railroad Grade-2

Sword Fern-13--2012-12-29 Tamalpa Trail and Railroad Grade

Chain Fern

Woodwardia fimbriata


Shady, damp areas


Blechnaceae Family


·  Flat, double-cut fronds.

·  Large spores on the bottom of some fronds.

·  [3] [5] Common in or next to streams.



Description: Macintosh HD:Users:bruce2:Documents:LEPIDGallery:Chain Fern detail Leaf Thumb.jpg

Chain Fern-433--2011-02-09

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:bruce2:Documents:LEPIDGallery:Chain Fern Full Web.jpg

Bracken Fern

Pteridium aquilinum


Shady, damp areas


Bracken Fern Family


·  Overall triangle shape

·  The triangle shape is green in the late spring, but brown from last year’s dead leaves through much of the winter and spring.

·  [3] [5] [7] Common

Bracken Fern--Feb 23 2012

Bracken Fern-12--2012-12-29 Tamalpa Trail and Railroad Grade

Bracken Fern--2012-12-29 Tamalpa Trail and Railroad Grade

Rattlesnake Grass

Briza maxima


Sunny, dry areas


Grass Famly

Not Native

·  Distinctive seed cages have sections like the tail of a rattlesnake.

·  Thin stems and large seed cages cause the plant to move in light breezes.

·  [5] [7] Common

Rattlesnake Grass--2012-08-15 Eldridge Loop

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:bruce2:Documents:LEPIDGallery:Rattlesnake grass-2 Seed Thumb - South Mt Tam - Jan 2012.jpg

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:bruce2:Documents:LEPIDGallery:rattlesnake grass Full Web - South Mt Tam - Jan 2012 - BHS.jpg


Juncus spp.


All areas


Rush Family


·  Round, stiff stems

·  No noticable leaves

·  Little flower bunches near the tips, or at the tips of the stem.

·  [5] [7] Common

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:bruce2:Documents:LEPIDGallery:Pacific Bog Rush Seed Thumb.jpg

Pacific Bog Rush--2012-06-27 Mt Tam

Bog Rush-3--2012-07-05 Mt Tam


Cyperus eragrostis


All areas


Sedge Family


·  Triangular, erect stems

·  Long, thin leaves at the top of the stem, just below the flower

·  Lots of green seeds at the top of the stem, which turn brown.

·  [7] Common on Gravity Car Road.

Tall Flatsedge-Cyperus eragrostis'-2012-06-09 North Mt Tam-2

Tall Cyperus Sedge-Cyperus eragrostis'-2012-01-11 South Mt Tam

Tall Cyperus Sedge 2-Cyperus eragrostis'-2012-01-11 South Mt Tam

Wild Oats

Avena fatua


Sunny, dry areas


Grass Famly

Not Native

·  Nodding green flowers soon turn to brown seed husks.

·  Stems stand tall and erect.

·  [5] Less common on Railroad Grade.

Wild Oats-3--2012-05-01 San Mateo Coast

Wild Oats--2012-06-30 Mt Tam


Wild Oats--2012-05-05 Fairfax Bolinas Road