Ashford Hangers

Ashford Hangers is a steep sided open access woodland, with a good selection of ferns

Asplenium scolopendrium is the most abundant fern

Both Polystichum setiferum and P. aculeatum are common in the hangars. There are several good candidates for their hybrid Polystichum x bicknellii

Dryopteris dilatata is beginning to lie down but the new croziers are also appearing

A New Classification of Blechnum

Towards the end of 2016 several papers were published that in my view will have a profound effect on fern classification in general and the Hard Fern family in particular. Firstly the paper published by the Pteridophyte Phylogeny Group (PPG 1, A community-derived classification for extant Lycophytes and Ferns, Journal of Systematics and Evolution 54(6) 563-603) aims to produce a consensus classification for ferns and Lycophytes. 94 pteridologists have contributed to the project and the new classification should hopefully bring stability for some time. There are still genera that require further more detailed research and these are highlighted so this will not be the final word – not that there ever will be. This new classification does not spring any major surprises and in general summarises phylogenetic research over the last 20 years. The one family that does undergo a major re-organisation is the Blechnaceae. This due to the acceptance by the PPG of 2 papers published in late 2016. These are; Gasper et al, Molecular Phylogeny of the fern family Blechnaceae (Polypodiales) with a revised genus level treatment , Cladistics published online 19th October 2016 and Gasper et al, A classification for Blechnaceae (Polypodiales; Polypodiopsida); New genera, resurrected names and combinations, Phytotaxa 275(3) 191-227. The second of these papers publishes several new genera and resurrects some older genera as well as publishing many new species combinations within these genera.
Blechnum has previously been known to be morphologically very diverse and molecular studies have shown that most of the previously accepted genera are nested within Blechnum itself. There are 2 ways to deal with this problem, lumping or splitting. Recently it has been suggested that Blechnum should be enlarged and genera such as Doodia should be included. This option only delays the inevitable consequences that such well defined genera such as Sadleria should also be included in Blechnum. The new proposals split Blechnum into many smaller genera. Most of these are morphologically consistent and can be easily distinguished as groups of related species.

It will take some time for most of these changes to become generally accepted however I have recently noted that Bowdens Hostas have started to use some of the new generic names on their website so I think it is time to start raising awareness of this new classification.

Here is short list of some of the new and resurrected genera and how the names of some well known species will be affected. Note that Doodia, Brainea and Sadleria survive in this new classification. Many other genera and combinations can be found in the paper cited above.

Blechnum
Now a small genus that retains species such as B. occidentale, B. appendiculatum, B. australe and B. hastatum.

Struthiopteris
Our native Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant) becomes Struthiopteris spicant a name that was well known in the past.

Austroblechnum
B. penna-marina = Austroblechnum penna-marina. Unfortunately subsp. alpinum has yet to be combined in Austroblechnum but will hopefully be in the near future.
B. blechnoides = Austroblechnum banksii, a welcome return of the well-known specific epithet.
B. colensoi = A. colensoi
B. chambersii = A. lanceolatum
B. mochaenum = A. lechleri

Parablechnum
B. cordatum = Parablechnum cordatum
B. novae-zelandiae = P. novae-zelandiae
B. montanum = P. montanum
B. capense = P. capense

Neoblechnum
B. brasiliense = Neoblechnum brasiliense

Oceanopteris
B. gibbum = Oceanopteris gibba
B. cartilagineum = O. cartilaginea

Lomaria
B. discolor = Lomaria discolor
B. nudum = L. nuda

Lomariocycas
B. tabulare = Lomariocycas tabularis
B. magellanicum = L. magellanica
B. cycadifolium = L. cycadifolia
B. palmiforme = L. palmiformis

Cranfillia
B. fluviatile = Cranfillia fluviatilis
B. vulcanicum = C. vulcanica
B. longicauda = C. longicauda

Blechnopsis
B. orientale = Blechnopsis orientalis

Asplenium ruta-muraria

I found this very healthy example of Asplenium ruta-muraria trying to crowd out an Asplenium scolopendrium. Photo taken in Meonstoke, Hampshire.

Identification

Prior to collecting my actual research data, I spent some time around Old Goginan, near Aberystwyth in North Ceredigion. The following pictures below are samples collected during a walk between Capel Bangor and Old Goginan. This was during the early stages of my ID explorations in May 2016, so if any of them are wrong please let me know! I have fine-honed my ID for my present work however, given the relatively fewer species I am examining.

The pictures aren’t nearly close-up enough for accuracy, but I hope will give a general indication…

  1. Athyrium filix-femina, Lady Fern

Characterised by the very dark scales along the stipe, and the shuttlecock formation of fronds. Easily confused with the Dryopteris  genus, but it’s appearance is much more ‘fountain’ like than shuttlecock in habit.

2. Blechnum spicant, Hard Fern or Deer Fern

Easily identified. The picture shows both the broader sterile and much more slender ‘fertile’ (i.e. spore-bearing) fronds.

3. Dryopteris aemula, Hay-scented Buckler

The random recurvation of the pinnae and pinnules gives this fern it’s unique appearance. This was found in only one place in the area where samples were taken, with just a few specimens present.

4. Dryopteris affinis, Golden-scaled Male Fern

Characterised by a stunning architectural formation, and densely packed golden brown scales along the stipe and into the rachis.

5. Dryopteris dilatata, Broad Buckler

Fairly lax in appearance, but with often rather flamboyant and large blades in the right conditions. Its scales are golden with a dark central smudge.

6. Dryopteris filix-mas, Male fern

The classic British woodland fern, forming a fairly lax shuttlecock formation. Golden scales along the stipe and into the rachis, but much less dense than those of D. affinis.

7. Polypodium vulgare, Common Polypody

Easily confused with other members of the Polypody family as many of them are very similar! Quite commonly seen growing in a variety of situations e.g. terrestrial, epiphytic.

8. Who knows! Possibly a hybrid?

I really have no idea about this one! The picture doesn’t show it very clearly but the stipe and rachis were very red/reddish-brown in colour. I did wonder if it might be a hybrid with a garden fern as there were residential properties in close proximity to the point of collection?

 

Obviously in terms of identification there are many other points to note such as the exact structure of the pinnae and pinnules, the arrangement of sori and their indusia. However this is merely my early investigation into identification, and I am presenting it as such. Again, I welcome any feedback!