Have you caught Fern-Fever yet? Are you now seeing ferns everywhere when you wander through the woods?
In this series so far, we’ve been learning how to identify ferns. We’ve also taken a deep dive into the complicated world of fern reproduction by spores. Now that you are an expert, here’s a little pop quiz.
TRUE or FALSE…
Just kidding! There’s no quiz. It’s time to leave all the botanical nitty-gritty behind, and meet some new ferns. Join me in a fanciful field trip to get to what really matters: the wonder, beauty and just plain weirdness of those fantastic ferns.
In the throes of Fern-Fever, my friends and I spent countless hours trying to identify ferns in the field. The divisions and shapes of the pinnae, the form a cluster of ferns takes and the habitat where it lives all offered clues to a fern’s name.
But I quickly developed a habit of turning the fronds over to look at the underside, for I knew the strange structures found there held the key to the identity mystery. What was I looking for? The “fern-seed” of Shakespeare?
It was just a little over two years ago that my friends and I came down with a severe affliction. Don caught it first and in no time Robb and I were infected. The symptoms were unmistakable: feverish minds, euphoria, aching backs, frequent confusion, blurry eyes, obsession…
What dread disease plagued us? Why, pteridomania, of course…
The change was so drastic and unexpected, my head still spins. One day I was happily reliving last summer’s Catskills adventures, while dreaming of the approaching spring and all the places I’d go. Jenkins Arboretum and the preserves along the Susquehanna for the spring wildflowers. National wildlife refuges for warblers and nesting shorebirds. The Pine Barrens for – well, just because it’s the Pine Barrens. The White Mountains in May. Texas in June to see Mexican free-tailed bats.
Just as quick as turning out a light, it all went away. Wiped out by a microscopic virus. One day, the world is my oyster; the next, that world has shrunk to a grain of sand. My life, interrupted.