Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Winter Grapefern - Sceptridium lunarioides   (Michaux) Holub
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Section 2 » Family Ophioglossaceae
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Author(Michaux) Holub
DistributionKnown from a single collection from the central Piedmont (Davie County) on April 9, 1939. The specimen is at NCU. This is a considerable northern disjunction from its main range.

This is a Southern species with a disjunct range. It ranges from NC (formerly), and SC and southeastern OK south to northern FL and central TX -- but is absent in the middle of the range, in the Mississippi River region.
AbundanceHistorical, and perhaps best called extirpated (SX). However, as there are records for scattered SC counties, it could potentially be found again in NC, especially in the extreme southern Piedmont. This is a Significantly Rare species.
HabitatThis species prefers disturbed places, such as dry woods, weedy fields, and other dry to mesic clearings. The NC record is from a "dry pine woods" (specimen label).
See also Habitat Account for General Successional Fields and Forblands
PhenologyFruits in winter and early spring -- January to April.
IdentificationWeakley (2018) notes that "This species is hard to spot, and all the more difficult to find because of its phenology; the leaves appear in late fall and die by early spring." This is a small and quite odd fern, not only in its short stature but the fact that the sterile leaf is prostrate on the ground. As Weakley (2018) implies, the blade is "evergreen" -- green during the winter but withering in spring. This blade is deltoid to triangular, 2-3 inches long, 3-4 inches wide, tripinnate, but with the ultimate pinnules rounded. The fertile blade is bipinnate but bead-like, raised above the ground on a stalk about 1-2 inches tall. The visual aspect of the entire plant is reminiscent of a basal rosette of a dicot with compound leaves and rounded leaflets! In fact, it would be passed over as a dicot unless you see the bead-like clusters (fertile blade) at the top of the stem.
Taxonomic CommentsFormerly named as Botrychium lunarioides.

Other Common Name(s)Prostrate Grapefern
State RankSH
Global RankG4?
State StatusSR-P
US Status
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