It is early spring, when the woods are yielding a few timid blossoms, and the air, still ripe with a suggestion of winter, vibrates to the wispy notes of newly arrived birds, you will hardly be rewarded by finding any but the evergreen species, and even these are not likely to be especially conspicuous at this season.
Usually it is the latter part of April before the pioneers among the ferns, the great Osmundas, push up the big, woolly croziers, or fiddle heads, which will soon develop into the most luxuriant and tropical looking plants of our low wet woods and roadsides.
Early in May you can find the Osmundas in a graceful stage of development. The Royal Fern, smooth and delicate, is now flushing the wet meadows with its tender red. In the open woods and along the roadside the Interrupted and the Cinnamon Ferns wear a green equally delicate. These three plants soon reach maturity and are conspicuous by reason of their unusual size and their flower like fruit clusters.
On the rocky banks of streams, you'll find the Fragile Bladder Fern as it unrolls its tremulous little fronds. Where there is less moisture and more exposure you'll find the Rusty Woodsia.
By the first of June many of the ferns are well advanced. You'll find the Brake, along hillsides. The Lady Fern is in its first freshness, without any sign of the disfigurements it develops so often by the close of summer. Wet meadows you'll find, often in great patches, the Sensitive Fern. The Chain Fern is another you'll find in the June wet meadows.
You can find most of the ferns in full foliage, if not in fruit, by the middle of July. Dark green, tall and vigorous stand the Brake. The Crested Shield Fern is fruiting in the swamps, and in the deeper woods Clinton's and Goldie's Ferns are in full fruitage.
In August you can find a few interesting wood ferns, all belonging to the same group. The Oak fern can be found in wet woods.
Once found leaves can be taken home for more careful investigation, and plants or cuttings (see Fern Propagation) of the rootstocks of the more common ferns can be collected for transplanting. Spores of the more rare species may be propagated at home... Lengthy... The lapsed time from the ripe spore, which is the size of a dust particle, to the first small new fern plant varies from a few weeks for the Osmundas to 15 to 20 years for some of the Lycopodiums....Good Luck!