While the Curly Grass Fern is not especially common, neither is it tremendously rare, it is simply diminutive and easily overlooked.
This plant does not look like a typical fern. The sterile fronds look like small (2 inch) curled grass leaves. The fertile fronds may be up to 4 or 5 inches high. They are topped with a structure that is about 1/4 inch high and 1/8 inch or less wide, attached on one side and notched on the opposite side. The mental image I get when I think of these fertile fronds is of a wide toothed comb attached to the end of a stick. The presence of these fertile fronds late in the summer and into the winter is a confirming indentifier.
I find it either intermingled in the spagnum in cedar swamps or on the banks along water courses.
The first picture was taken July 25, 2004 near Webbs Mill, NJ. The second two pictures were taken in the proximity of Bamber Lake, NJ on April 30, 2000.
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