Connecticut Plants
Sensitive Fern (Bead Fern)
Onoclea sensibilis L.

Sensitive fern gets its name from the tendency of the fronds to wither at the first slight frost.

  • Family: sensitive fern (Onocleaceae)
  • Habitat: wet meadows and woods, swamps, streambanks; usually in slightly acidic soil
  • Height: 18-24 inches
  • Location of spores: on separate fertile fronds, within bead-like modified leaflets
  • Petiole (leaf stalk): yellow or pale tan, dark brown at the base with a few scales
  • Growth pattern: random
  • Persistence: deciduous
  • Origin: native
Onoclea sensibilis L.

Sensitive fern growing in a meadow. Only sterile fronds are present in this photo.

Onoclea sensibilis L.

A frond of sensitive fern. The coarsely divided fronds make this fern very easy to identify. The only fern it's likely to be confused with is netted chain fern. Compared to netted chain fern, sensitive fern has more deeply lobed leaflets with more rounded tips. It is also much more common.

Onoclea sensibilis L.

The fertile fronds of sensitive fern bear spores in the bead-like structures.