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Phegopteris hexagonoptera (Michx.) Fée

Photo: Phegopteris hexagonoptera

Broad Beech Fern

Habitat: Rich, often rocky, hardwood forests. [Hardwood to mixed forest (forest, upland)]

Range: Quebec and Maine to Ontario and Minnesota, south to northern Florida and Texas.

Aids to Identification: Broad beech fern is a large fern with triangular blades, which grows to about 60 cm in height. It is pubescent with transparent, needle-like hairs and has narrow, light colored scales. Most similar looking ferns are scaley rather than hairy. It is slightly hairy and a dull green color. It is distinguished from its close relative long beech fern (P. connectilis) by the entirely winged axis and subleaflets with distinct lobes.

Photo: Phegopteris hexagonoptera

Ecological characteristics: Generally found in sunny, more open spots in moist woods.

Phenology: Fruits in August.

Family: Polypodiaceae

Synonyms: Formerly known as Dryopteris hexagonoptera (Michx.) C. Christens. or Thelypteris hexagonoptera (Michx.) Nieuwl.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 26 town(s) in the following county(ies): Androscoggin, Cumberland, Franklin, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Somerset, York.

Dates of documented observations are: No Date, 1872, 1894, 1895 (2), 1897, 1905 (2), 1909, 1912, 1915, 1921, 1931 (2), 1935, 1941, 1953, 1990 (2), 1991 (2), 1997 (4), 1998 (2), 2001 (2)

Reason(s) for rarity: At northern limit of range.

Conservation considerations: Effects of logging are unknown. Partial removal of the canopy might benefit the plant by allowing more light to the forest floor; complete removal of the canopy would be more likely to be detrimental because it would bring more drastic habitat change.