Sceptridium dissectum (Spreng.) Lyon

Cut-Leaf Grape Fern


CC = 5
CW = 5
MOC = 46

© DETenaglia

Family - Ophioglossaceae

Habit - Perennial homosporous fern.

Stems - Short, erect.

Leaves - 15-45 cm long. Vegetative portion leathery, 2-4 times pinnately compound. Uppermost pinnae lanceolate to linear, the base mostly truncate to rounded, the tip usually acute, the margins minutely toothed to lacerate. Pinnules sometimes lobed. Fertile portion 2-3 times pinnately compound, 1.5-2.5 times as long as the vegetative portion, arising from the lower 1/3 of the common petiole, the vegetative leaf blade long-stalked.


© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Fertile portion of leaf erect, long-stalked, branched. Sporangia sessile or short-stalked, densely clustered.

Flowers - Absent.

Sceptridium_dissectum_fertile2.jpg Immature fertile frond.

© SRTurner

Sceptridium_dissectum_fertile.jpg Fertile frond and sporangia.

© SRTurner

Flowering - August - November.

Habitat - Bottomland and mesic forests, edges of pine plantations, thickets of old fields that are reverting back to forests, occasionally in dry woods and thickets.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - S. biternatum.

Other info. - This species can be found throughout Missouri and is fairly common. Its natural range is throughout the eastern half of the continental U.S.

An older name for this species was Botrychium dissectum. There were 4 species of Botrychium in Missouri. Two species, B. virginianum (L.) Sw. and B. campestre W.H. Wagner & Farrar, are easy to identify in the field. The genus Sceptridium has been considered by some authors (including Yatskievych) as a subgenus of Botrychium. The two genera, as well as species within the genera (such as S. dissectum and S. biternatum) can be very difficult to distinguish. S. dissectum leaves have a tendency to turn a reddish-bronze color in the fall. The leaves of B. biternatum typically do not. Fortunately for us here in Missouri, B. biternatum is restricted to the extreme southeast corner of the state.

S. dissectum also has a form with finely divided leaves, this is form dissectum and is not quite as common as form obliquum, which is pictured above.

Here are two young plants of both forms growing side by side:


© DETenaglia

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 10-12-02 and in Rogers, AR., 8-8-03 (DETenaglia); also at Babler State Park, St. Louis County, MO, 8-22-2018, and Glassberg Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 10-5-2018 (SRTurner).