Botrychium pumicola

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Pumice moonwort
MDF Botrychium pumicola 01.JPG

Vulnerable (NatureServe)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Psilotopsida
Order: Ophioglossales
Family: Ophioglossaceae
Genus: Botrychium
Species: B. pumicola
Binomial name
Botrychium pumicola
Coville ex Underw.

Botrychium pumicola, with the common name pumice moonwort, is a rare fern


The fern is endemic to the Modoc Plateau in northern California and Crater Lake area in southern Oregon.[1]

A specimen from a population found on Mount Shasta in California by Cooke in 1941 was thought to have been misidentified, but the specimen was recently reviewed by Farrar, and found to be correctly identified.[2] Botrychium pumicola was rediscovered on Mt. Shasta in 2008 by M. Colberg. It is also found in the Modoc National Forest.


Pumice moonwort, as the common name suggests, live in dry, fine to course pumice gravel and scree without any admixture of humus, in places that retain moisture into late spring. Its native landscape is open, fully exposed, sparsely vegetated pumice fields and gently rolling slopes, from subalpine lodgepole pine forest to above timberline. It may also occur in Pinus contortaPurshia tridentata basins with open frost pockets. During the winter, it is usually covered by several feet of snow.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Botrychium pumicola has been found growing with B. lanceolatum and B. simplex.[citation needed] Elevation of occurrence is from 5,900 to 8,850 feet above sea level.[10]


Botrychium pumicola is a mycorrhizal fern, and grows sporophytic gemmae (i.e., little structures for the asexual reproduction of the sporophytic, or diploid, phase of the plant's life cycle). Some botanists believe that the gemmae might be adaptations to a dry climate.[3] Another name for plants of the genus Botrychium is 'grapeferns,' since the sexual reproductive structures (synangia) look like tiny yellow-green grapes.

The plant is stout, with a very congested appearance, fleshy, 8–22 cm (3–9 in) high. Leaves appear in summer. Roots are abundant, 1 mm (0.004 in) or less in diameter. The rhizome is erect, stout, elongate (2–8 cm, 1-3 in, long and 3 mm, 0.1 in, in diameter).

Fronds are one or sometimes two, erect, 6–14 cm, 2-5½ in, long, the common stalk hypogean, 4–9 cm, 1½-3½ in, long and 2-3½ mm, 0.08-0.14 in, in diameter, thickly sheathed with the stems of old fronds. Trophophore is sessile or nearly so; stalk 0–10 mm, 0-0.4 in, a tenth to a half the length of trophophore rachis; blade is dull, strongly glaucous, whitish green, deltate (triangular), thickly leathery, twice pinnate, with apex bent down in vernation, 2–4 cm, 1-1½ in, long and 1½-4 cm, ½-1½ in, broad; ternate, the middle division the largest, broadly oblong to rounded-deltoid, the lateral ones similar or rhombic-oblong, all pinnately parted; pinnae closely imbricate (overlapping), up to 6 pairs, strongly ascending, sublunate to flabelliform, broadly crenate to incised, or the larger ones radially cleft into cuneiform lobes; distance between 1st and 2nd pinnae not or slightly more than between the 2nd and 3rd pairs, asymmetrically cuneate; basal pinna pair often divided into 2 unequal parts, lobed to tip, margins entire, sinuate to shallowly crenate, apex rounded to truncate, venation pinnate.

The trophophore is located high on the common stalk, but the common stalk is subterranean, giving the impression that the leaf originates near ground level. Sporophore is once to thrice pinnate, with the tip recurved in vernation, sessile or short-stalked, equalling or surpassing (1 to 1½ times) the sterile blade, but with the stalk shorter than the trophophore; extremely compact sporangial cluster.[4][5][6]


It is in the Adder's-tongue family (Ophioglossaceae), and may be closely related to the whisk ferns of the Psilotaceae family. These two families together, according to recent research, share a common ancestor which appears to have diverged early on from the rest of the fern lineage; this probably explains the distinctive morphologies of the members of these two families.[11]

There was speculation that Botrychium pumicola is a variety of Botrychium simplex. The two species are indeed closely related, with Botrychium montanum also somewhat closely related. It has been determined that Botrychium pumicola is a separate species.[12]


The fire ecology of this plant is not known, but open, sparsely vegetated pumice probably does not carry fire well. This plant is neither likely to encounter fire nor tolerate it well.

Conservation status and threats[edit]

Some of the principal threats to this species are fern collecting and habitat disruption caused by recreational use, timber harvesting, and pumice mining. [14]

Field identification[edit]

The best time of year to look for this plant is from July to September.[10] The sessile trophophore and very short-stalked sporophore serve to distinguish this species from B. simplex.[citation needed] Pumice moonwort has a bluish-grey-green color, as opposed to B. lanceolatum, whose color is more yellow-green.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ List of plants on the Modoc National Forest
  2. ^ Cooke, Wm. Bridge (1949). "Second Supplement to the Flora of Mount Shasta". American Midland Naturalist. American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 41, No. 1. 41 (1): 174–183. doi:10.2307/2422024. JSTOR 2422024. 
  3. ^ a b Camacho, Francisco J. (1996). "New Report of Subterranean Sporophytic Gemmae on Botrychium pumicola". American Fern Journal. American Fern Journal, Vol. 86, No. 1. 86 (1): 27–28. doi:10.2307/1547607. JSTOR 1547607. 
  4. ^ a b Abrams, Leroy (1923). "Botrychium pumicola Coville". Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States, Vol. I: Ferns to Birthworts. Stanford University Press. p. 3. 
  5. ^ a b Coville, Frederick V. (1901). "The Home of Botrychium pumicola". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 28, No. 2. 28 (2): 109–111. doi:10.2307/2477886. JSTOR 2477886. 
  6. ^ a b Wagner, Warren H.; Florence S. Wagner (1993). "Botrychium pumicola". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 2. New York and Oxford. 
  7. ^ Kozloff, Eugene N. (2005). Plants of Western Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Timber Press. p. 38. 
  8. ^ a b Wagner, Warren H.; Florence S. Wagner (1986). "Genus Communities as a Systematic Tool in the Study of New World Botrychium (Ophioglossaceae)". American Fern Journal. 76 (2): 60. JSTOR 1219850. 
  9. ^ "Regional Forester's Sensitive Plant List: Willamette National Forest, September 2001". Willamette National Forest. Retrieved 2007-01-27. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b PacifiCorp (August 2002). "Threatened and Endangered Species Inventory: Terrestrial Resources. Klamath Hydroelectric Project.". FERC No. 2082. 
  11. ^ Judd, Walter S.; Christopher S. Campbell; Elizabeth A. Kellogg; Peter F. Stevens; Michael J. Donoghue (2002). "8". Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach (Second Edition). Sinauer Associates, Inc. pp. 191–192. 
  12. ^ Hauk, Warren D. (1995). "A Molecular Assessment of Relationships Among Cryptic Species of Botrychium subgenus Botrychium (Ophioglossaceae)". American Fern Journal. American Fern Journal, Vol. 85, No. 4. 85 (4): 375–394. doi:10.2307/1547816. JSTOR 1547816. 
  13. ^ California Native Plant Society, Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants (online edition, v8-02): Botrychium pumicola . accessed 4.29.2016.
  14. ^ a b NatureServe website: Botrychium pumicola

External links[edit]