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Sensitive Fern (Bead Fern)
Onoclea sensibilis

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

• Family: Dryopteridaceae
• 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
• Stipe (leaf stalk): yellow or pale tan, dark brown at the base with a few scales
• Growth pattern: random
• Persistence: deciduous

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


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. Sensitive fern has more deeply lobed leaflets than does netted chain fern. It is also much more common.


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


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