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Climbing Fern (Hartford Fern)
Lygodium palmatum

The climbing fern doesn't look much like a fern. Like many vines, it climbs by twining around other plants. The fronds are very long -- up to 15 feet -- and only around five inches wide. Pairs of hand-shaped subleaflets make up the sterile leaflets. The more finely divided fertile leaflets are at the top of the frond. Climbing fern is rare in Connecticut; it is listed as a species of special concern. The fronds were once gathered for Christmas decorations, and the threat to the populations led Connecticut to pass a law banning picking -- the first plant-protection law in the United States.

• Family: Lygodiaceae
• Habitat: moist, open woods or thickets (acidic soil)
• Height: vine-like, to 8 feet
• Location of spores: at top of stalk
• Stipe (leaf stalk): fragile, vine-like
• Growth pattern: random
• Persistence: evergreen

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Lygodium palmatum


The hand-shaped segments are part of the sterile leaflets. In dry weather, the tips curl under.


The fertile leaflets grow at the top of the frond. They are much more finely divided than the sterile leaflets.


Last updated November 25, 2005. © 2005 Connecticut Botanical Society. All rights reserved.