Plant A Day – Cutleaf Grapefern

Cutleaf Grapefern Botrychium dissectum

Cutleaf Grapefern
Botrychium dissectum

There are a number of Botrychium species (Grapeferns) found in Indiana, but only two in my neck of the woods, northeast Indiana; the Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium oneidense) and this one.

Identifying them is not hard, once you know what to look for.  Just looking at pictures in a fern book didn’t help me at all.  I had to consult with the experts at IN-PLANTS to get the full story.  This is a really excellent on-line resource for Indiana plant information.  It’s a list server where you will get an email anytime anyone on the list posts something.  To join, send an email to with “sub in-plants-l <full name>”  in the subject line.  Of course <full name> is your name.  Only do this if you want to get lots of emails about Indiana plants.  You can also post your own stuff if you like.

The main identifying characteristic is that the Rattlesnake Fern grows in the spring and is gone before the Cutleaf Grapefern even sprouts out of the ground in the fall.

Other than that, The Cutleaf Grapefern is darker and more leathery looking.  It’s two stems, one for the leaf and one for the reproductive parts, come straight out of the ground next to each other.  On the Rattlesnake Fern, the leaf stem projects from the main stem a few inches above the ground.

Finely dissected leaves

Finely dissected leaves

Note the freshly fallen leaves on the ground.  This plant blooms in the fall.

Note the freshly fallen leaves on the ground. This plant blooms in the fall.

Fertile stalk


Top down view

Top down view

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