Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Southern Adder's-tongue - Ophioglossum pycnostichum   (Fernald) A. Love & D. Love
Members of Ophioglossaceae:
Members of Ophioglossum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 2 » Family Ophioglossaceae
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Author(Fernald) A. Love & D. Love
DistributionNearly statewide, but most widespread across the Piedmont and northwestern Coastal Plain. Absent from the Sandhills proper. Possibly absent in parts of the eastern and southern Coastal Plain and the northwestern counties of the state.

This is an Eastern and Mideastern species, ranging from CT, PA, and southeastern IA to central GA and eastern TX.
AbundanceFairly common to frequent in the Piedmont and northwestern Coastal Plain, but small and easily overlooked. Infrequent in the central and southern Mountains. Rare to uncommon in the eastern and southern parts of the Coastal Plain. The NCNHP's State Rank of S3S4 is very conservative; considering collections from over half of the state's counties, a rank of S5 seems appropriate.
HabitatThis is a fern or moist to mesic soils, growing most often in bottomland forests of brownwater rivers. It also grows in damp fields and thickets, and also into somewhat mesic forests. Generally it grows on flat topography.
PhenologyFruits from March to July.
IdentificationThe three native NC species of Ophioglossum are quite un-fern like, with the single elliptical to ovate blade looking anything but a fern to the general public. This somewhat familiar species has a stipe about 3-4 inches long, with the sterile blade ascending, ovate to widely elliptic, rounded at the tip, and about 2-3 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide (about twice as long as wide). The fertile blade is compacted into a narrow "tube" about 1 inch long and very narrow, on a stalk about 4 inches above the sterile blade. O. nudicaule has a much smaller sterile blade -- less than 1/4-inch wide, whereas O. crotalophorides has the sterile blade typically horizontally spreading near the ground, rather than somewhat midway up the overall plant and often ascending. The exotic O. petiolatum has the sterile blade ovate, the widest portion near the base, as compared with widest about 1/2 to 2/3 of the distance from the base to the middle of the more elliptical blade of O. pycnostichum.
Taxonomic CommentsGenerally named as O. vulgatum in most references. RAB (1968) and others named it as P. vulgatum var. pycnostichum. Weakley (2018) says that "O. vulgatum (defined narrowly) is Eurasian".

Other Common Name(s)Common Adder's-tongue
State RankS3S4 [S5]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorriePiedmont, hardwood floodplain terrace between Big Governor's and Crawley's Creeks, May 2014. MoorePhoto_natural
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