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Olympic National Forest, Washington, Wildflowers
8 years ago
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Hi Pat,

Great question! Unfortunately, NPS does  not know the exact number of fern species in the Hoh Rainforest. They do know that there are over 130 species of moss, lichen and fern within the rainforest.

Please come back to OhRanger to come to post more questions or to use your park knowledge to answer a few!

8 years ago
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I've spent a lot of time in the Hoh. And while I can't tell you how many fern species exist there, I can share perhaps the four most common.

1) Sword Fern : This is perhaps the most common fern you'll see, and easily the biggest. These are the big bushy ferns that dominate much of the landscape. I've seen entire hillsides covered in this fern. This fern gets its name from the shape of each individual leaf, which does indeed represent a sword, including a bulbous hilt at its base. These ferns are a favorite food of the native elk populations. As you walk through the Hoh rainforest, you'll notice that a lot of these ferns have been trimmed down by the foraging elk.

2) Licorice Fern : These fern are easy to spot, because they are usually well off the ground, nestled in the crooks of Big Leaf Maple trees or in the moss on those trees. They usually have just a single short stem with leaves in that classic fern shape. Apparently it gets its name because the root is said to taste like licorice. 

3) Deer Fern : These fern grow on the ground, and are much smaller in stature than the Sword fern. This fern has many stems that are low lying, but the easiest way to identify this fern is by the presence of a single tall stem that grows straight up from the center, with very delicate leaves on the end. It is said that this tall stem is a favorite food for deer (hence the name).

4) Bracken Fern :  This fern is distinctive because of a ridged, almost woody stem that shoots from the ground about 3 feet in the air before it splits and grows the leaves in that classic fern arrangement. I live in an urban environment, and this fern is so common it is often considered a weed - albeit a pretty one.

8 years ago