1-7 October 2000

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All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center


The property now occupied by Hilton Pond Center was a working farm for nearly a century, and perhaps longer. As is typical in the Carolina Piedmont, the land was cultivated in corn and cotton and other row crops, and later grazed by cattle--practices that eliminated many native herbaceous plants. Additionally, humus and topsoil were depleted by overfarming and erosion, so there are few woodland wildflowers at the Center--and even fewer species of ferns.

One fern that has become increasingly common over the past 20 years is Southern Grapefern (Botrychium biternatum), whose triangular leathery green leaves are found in several shady places at the Center. Grapeferns derive their common name from the grape-like cluster of sporangia (right) borne on a fertile frond that--like the sterile, vegetative leaf (above)--arises from the plant's thick, corky rootstock. The species name means "twice divided in threes," a reference to the leaf being dissected into leaflets and the leaflets then divided into even smaller sub-leaflets.

Grapeferns at Hilton Pond Center do not compete well against other ground cover, and on-going mechanical removal of invasive Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) seems to have enhanced their chances. They are doing best in shaded microhabitats with decomposing leaf litter and somewhat acidic soil. Because new grapeferns are sprouting a few yards away from established colonies, they likely are propagating by spores; at the same time, the rootstocks of established colonies are putting up additional vegetative fronds that make the colonies more dense (below).

At Hilton Pond Center, Southern Grapefern produces its spores in late summer and early fall, after which the fertile frond withers and dies. In winter, its green sterile fronds become prostrate and sometimes turn a bronze color.

Like its related species (e.g., Common Grapefern, B. dissectum), Southern Grapefern is difficult to cultivate, apparently because of a mycorrhizal soil fungus that is a required symbiote in its rootstock. Transplanted grapeferns almost always become increasingly smaller and die within three years.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center


Red-bellied Woodpecker (female)
(male has red on crown & forehead)

Gray-cheeked Thrush
(lacks an eye-ring)

The following species were banded this week (some are pictured above or on other weekly pages):

Ruby-throated Hummingbird--8
Magnolia Warbler--1
Common Yellowthroat--1
American Redstart--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Northern Cardinal--4
Gray Catbird--1
Eastern Tufted Titmouse--1
Gray-cheeked Thrush--1
Brown Thrasher----2
Red-bellied Woodpecker--1

Weekly Total--22

All photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.