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Botrychium virginianum (Rattlesnake fern)
Smith, R.W.

Botrychium virginianum

Botrychium virginianum (L.) Sw.

Rattlesnake fern

Ophioglossaceae (Adder's-Tongue Family)

Synonym(s): Botrychium virginianum ssp. europaeum, Botrychium virginianum var. europaeum, Botrypus virginianus

USDA Symbol: bovi

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

Reaching a height of 3 ft., this fern is unique in that its fertile portion is really a continuation of the main stem and rises from between the lower-most pinnae. The fronds, which occur singly, appear early in the spring and last through summer, though the fertile portion withers quickly. The sterile portion is twice-pinnate.


Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb , Fern
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AK , AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Circumboreal, irregularly s. in America to FL, Mex. & w. WA
Native Habitat: Moist, rich, deciduous woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Deep, humus-rich soil.
Conditions Comments: Requires more care than other ferns. Must have proper soil, water, and protection from insects and winds.


Description: Propagate by spores.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0652 Collected Jun 6, 1992 in Medina County by Harry Cliffe

Additional resources

USDA: Find Botrychium virginianum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Botrychium virginianum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Botrychium virginianum


Record Last Modified: 2012-07-06
Research By: TWC Staff

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