Photo by: Gordon Dickins

Hart’s-tongue Fern

Gordon Dickins

So varied is the geology of Limekiln Wood, which lies to the east of The Ercall, that every major soil type in Shropshire can be found here — and all within the space of two square kilometres! As its name might suggest, limestone is very much part of that underlying equation and the soils overlying the rock provide the perfect growing agent for a very atypical looking fern. Botanists arrange these primitive non-flowering plants by the number of times their feather-like fronds divide, a practice that could easily send the uninitiated into a cold sweat (although we heartily recommend giving it a go). Yet, with its shiny deep-green, strap-like appearance the undivided Hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) presents no such problem. It belongs to the Asplenium family, and is equally at home growing on walls (where it may attain a height of no more than few inches). In rain-soaked western Britain, however, this fern is also very typical of woodlands occurring on lime-rich soils, and its presence should give you a good idea of what’s happening directly beneath your feet in this geologically complex location.

Quick ID: medium-sized fern with instantly recognisable dark-green, strap-like fronds (which can appear more yellow when growing on walls). Crimson sori (spore cases) located on the undersides of fronds ripen between August and March in a distinctive herringbone arrangement. 

When to see and where: Limekiln Wood, Short Wood and The Ercall; the verges near the entrance of the green lane to Maddocks Hill Quarry are another location worth searching.

Link: Wrekin Ferns

Back to top ten