Botrychium lunarioides

Botrychium lunarioides (Michx.) Sw.
(resembling moonwort—Botrychium lunaria, a widespread species common in both the Old and New Worlds)

Local names: winter grape fern, prostrate grape fern

Roots often 20–30 in number, yellow to brown; leaves appearing in late fall, overwintering and then dying in early spring (plant wholly underground and dormant for 8–9 months per year); sterile blade portion usually pale green, shortstalked, fleshy, 3–8 cm long, 5–12 cm wide, 2–3-pinnate-pinnatifid; ultimate leaf segments fan-shaped, with midvein absent, denticulate, rounded at apex; 2n = 90 (Wagner & Wagner 1993). Open closely cut grassy areas, often in cemeteries; n Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah w to Bastrop (J. Singhurst 4806), Falls, Kaufman, Lee (Singhurst 4773), Limestone, Navarro (all BAYLU), Hunt (TEX-LL), and Milam (Holmes et al. 1996) cos. on e edge of Blackland Prairie; se U.S. from NC s to FL w to OK and TX. Spores maturing Feb–Apr. [Holubiella lunarioides (Michx.) Skoda, Sceptridium lunarioides (Michx.) Holub] If Botrychium is divided into segregate genera, as argued by Hauk et al. (2003), B. lunarioides would be recognized in the genus Sceptridium. According to Wagner and Wagner (1993), a “… peculiarity of this species is the tendency for the sporophores to remain curled in late fall and early winter and to become erect in February.” Based on extensive field experience in AR, LA, and TX, Thomas et al. (1981) noted that this species “will remain dormant during unusually dry springs.” It was first collected in TX (San Augustine Co.) in 1972 (Thomas 1979). It was only recently reported from the Blackland Prairie by Holmes et al. (1996), who greatly expanded its known distribution within TX; it is now widely known in the e 1⁄3 of TX. Wagner (1992) considered B. lunarioides to be distinct enough to place it in its own section. This species is easily overlooked, both because the plant is small and because the vegetative portions are prostrate and hidden by grass. Wealkey (2010) also noted that the leaves only appear in late fall and die by early spring (though G. Yatskievych, pers. comm., noted that he has collected the species in wc AR in May). However, when fertile, the vertically oriented sporangia-bearing part sticks well above the prostrate blade portion that is often interwoven in the turf. Thus, as pointed out by Nelson (2000), the “most effective way to find this fern is to search for it in closely cut lawns, especially cemeteries, by crawling on hands and knees or by laying one’s face close to the ground, then looking laterally across the top of the grass for the fertile frond segments.”

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