Clear Lake Chapter

Chapter Meeting: Texas Ferns for the Houston Area

January 9, 2023

Darla Harris highlights 21 Texas ferns that are either native to the region or do well in the Houston area. She also touches on the history of ferns and their reproductive strategies.

Texas ferns covered:
Woodwardia virginica (Virginia Chainfern, Virginia Chain Fern)
Woodwardia areolata (Netted Chainfern, Chain Fern, Netted Chain Fern)
Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern, Bead Fern, Sympathy Fern)
Adiantum capillus-veneris (Southern Maidenhair Fern, Common Maidenhair Fern, Maidenhair Fern, Venus Hair Fern)
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum, formerly Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern)
Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis (Royal Fern)
Pteridium aquilinum (Western Bracken Fern, Bracken Fern, Western Bracken, Bracken)
Botrychium biternatum (Sparselobe Grapefern)
Asplenium platyneuron (Ebony Spleenwort)
Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair Spleenwort)
Anemia mexicana (Mexican Fern, Mexican Flowering Fern)
Dryopteris ludoviciana (Southern Woodfern, Florida Shieldfern)
Thelypteris kunthii (Wood Fern, River Fern, Southern Shield Fern, Kunth’s Maiden Fern, Normal Shield Fern)
Pleopeltis polypodioides (Resurrection Fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)
Equisetum hyemale (Scouring-rush Horsetail, Horsetail, Scouring Rush, Canuela)
Marsilea macropoda (Bigfoot Water-clover, Water-clover, Clover-fern, Largefoot Pepperwort)
Azolla caroliniana (Carolina Mosquitofern)
Selaginella lepidophylla (Flower Of Stone)
Pellaea ovata (Ovateleaf Cliffbrake, Ovate-leaf Cliffbrake)
Pellaea atropurpurea (Purple Cliffbrake)

About the Speaker

Darla Harris has over 40 years of experience growing ferns and has grown over 650 different ferns. She is the president of the Texas Gulf Coast Fern Society and editor of the American Fern Society Fiddlehead forum. Darla opened Fern Plantation Nursery in 2015, where she offers more than 200 different ferns.


Diggs, George M., and Barney L. Lipscomb. The Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas. Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 2014.
Peterson, Charles D., and Larry E. Brown. Vascular Flora of the Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary, San Jacinto County, Texas: A Sanctuary of the Outdoor Nature Club, Houston, Texas. Houston, TX: The Club, 1983.
Yarborough, Sharon C. Ferns and Fern Allies of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2002.

Hosted by Environmental Institute of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason