Sword Ferns (Nephrolepis spp.) have fronds with alternate pinnae (small leaflets) on either side of the rachis (midrib). The edges of the pinnae are serrated.
Sword fern is common in shaded, humid environments, including forests and swamps.
Many individuals of this delicate fern grow along the Hammock Trail. Look beneath the kiosk where the Ecotone and Hammock Trails separate. Also you will find these ferns growing beneath the sable palms just beyond the slash pines in the pine flatwoods portion on the trail. Two sword fern species of Nephrolepsis grow in these areas: Nephrolepis exaltata and Nephrolepis cordifolia. The two species are compared in the chart below.
Nephrolepis exaltata Nephrolepis cordifolia
Common Name: Sword Fern
Common Name: Tuberous Sword Fern
Non-native and invasive
Does not have tubers
Fronds are long and weeping
Fronds are erect Pinnae are sword shaped, gradually narrowing to a point Pinnae are straight and blunt Scales on the rachis are one color
Where a scale attaches to the upper surface of the rachis, it is darker than the rest of the scale
Tissue covering spore-producing structures is rounded to horseshoe-shaped Tissue covering spore-producing structures is kidney or crescent-shaped, or shaped like a rounded triangle
© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer).
Please report errors to Susan Snyder @ firstname.lastname@example.org