New York Natural Heritage Program
Curlygrass Fern
Schizaea pusilla Pursh
Ferns

General Description [-]
Curlygrass Fern is a small fern which grows low to the ground. The sterile and fertile leaves (fronds) are differently shaped. The sterile fronds are spiraling, curly, and slender (1-5 centimeters long by 0.2-0.3 millimeters wide), and form dense, crowded, somewhat grasslike tufts. The fertile fronds are much longer, slender (barely 0.5 mm wide), and erect (up to 10 centimeters tall). The fertile portion terminal, arranged into 3-8 pairs of crowded, finger-like pinnae 1.5 to 4 millimeters long, with multicellular hairs along their margins (FNA 1997).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
Plants with fertile fronds are much more likely to be found, though an astute and lucky observer may identify vegetative plants as well.

Similar Species [-]
Curlygrass Fern is unlike any other fern within the NY flora. Because of its rarity and diminutive size, locating this plant is much more difficult than identifying it.
Curlygrass Fern Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
Vegetative plants may, with lots of luck, be found from June until fall.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Vegetative Fruiting
The time of year you would expect to find Curlygrass Fern vegetative (blue shading) and fruiting (orange shading) in New York.