The Rattlesnake Fern-Botrypus Virginianus
Rattlesnake Fern is a part of the adders-tongue family and is named for the fact that rattlesnakes commonly use it as a habitat. It is also known as the Virginia Grape Fern. It, like many deciduous perennial ferns, grows in damp shady areas, such as moist, dense forests. It grows in many areas of the United States, Australia, Norway, the Mexican Mountains, the Himalayan Mountains in Asia, Finland’s Karelia region and the Gulf of Bothnia as well as Europe and Russia.
Each stem is round and bi-colored being light tan at the base and green near the three fronds and a fertile stalk. The leaves are green and usually soft to the touch. Each leaf has a spread of from 5 to 19 inches wide. The rattlesnake grows close to the ground, usually moving parallel to the ground. It may reach heights of up to 18 inches tall with a spread of 24 inches. It reproduces through the alternation of generations.
The Rattlesnake Fern is rarely cultivated because root division is usually unsuccessful, as is transplanting. The plant doesn’t seed, and the flowers are sterile. However, it does thrive in nature in undisturbed wooded areas, dry-mesic wooded slopes and woodlands and in upland savannas. It is often found in moist well-drained woodlands predominated in the vicinity of oak and hickory trees. They thrive in partial sun to light shade in fertile loamy soils, in dry to dry-mesic settings. The plant loves to be surrounded by decaying matter.
In the U.S. it grows primarily in these zones: 4a-9b. A deciduous perennial it is used for foliage only. Successful propagation occurs by using spores that must be sown in light soil depths and not allowed to dry out. Keep the pot in a plastic bag and keep the air moist to promote germination. Grow indoors in the winter and plant outside in the spring.