Flora & Fauna

Winter white ferns

A fading bracken fern leaf glows white against the green leaves of sword fern at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

A fading bracken fern leaf glows white against the green leaves of sword fern at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

We may not have a typical white winter wonderland here in the coast redwood forest, but we do have spectacular displays of white leaves that appear this time of year. Half of the fern species that live in the coast redwood forest are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves for part of the year and regrow them in the spring.

Deciduous ferns, like bracken and lady fern, absorb the nutrients from their leaves before shedding them. The foliage turns a snowy white as the nutrients are absorbed underground by the fern stems. It’s a transient sight, as before long the white leaves will curl up and die.

Most times of year it can be difficult to tell which species are deciduous and which are evergreen, but walk through the woods now and you’ll see the tell-tale signs of deciduous ferns and their showy winter display.

Lady fern leaves turn the Opal Creek bank white in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Lady fern leaves turn the Opal Creek bank white in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

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