Goldenback fern (pityrogramma triangularis)

The goldenback fern (pityrogramma triangularis, or Pentagramma triangularis) is a smaller evergreen fern located in the southern end of the Pacific Northwest. It is three times pinnate and can get to 35 centimeters tall, and its pinnae are completely attached to the axis. Its stems are black and it gets its name from the golden-white powder underneath the leaves, and share the space with the sori, which follow the veins on the underside of the leaf. They prefer partly shaded, dry, rocky rough biospheres, in lower to middle elevations. Like the shield fern, the pair of leaflets closest to the base contains asymmetrical pinnae.



  • Smaller, evergreen fern, three times pinnate, can reach 35 cm
  • Stems are black, underside of leaf is golden
  • Prefer partly shaded, rocky and dry areas
  • Asymmetrical pinnae at the base of frond
  • Pinnae attach completely to the axis

Goldenback fern


Deer fern (blechnum spicant)

The deer fern (Blechnum spicant) is an evergreen fern similar to the sword fern (polystichum munitum). It lives in moist and wet forests, and other areas served with lots of water. Like the sword fern, they are basal leaves/once pinnate, but differ from the sword fern in that the pinnae are entirely attached to the leaf, whereas sword ferns have stems attaching to the axis. The deer fern is unique in that it has two different kinds of ferns. One kind has shorter, wider leaves that look similar to a weed trimmer, with alternating pinnae attaching to the axis. The other kind resembles the sword fern, with a lancolate shape that bulges in the middle. Both have continuous sori on the underside of the leaf near the margin.

  • Two different kinds of fronds: one has shorter, wider leaves, and the other has longer, lancolate leaves; both types attach fully at the base
  • Basal/once pinnate leaves reaching from the bottom and stand erect
  • Continuous sori underneath leaf


Bracken fern (pteridium aquilinum)

The bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) is a deciduous fern native to many different environments including roadsides, burns, meadows, dry and set forests, and other areas that it can get sun (it loves sun). It can reach between three and five meters tall, and has erect, solitary ferns that are three times pinnate. The pinnae of the frond are triangular shaped and hairy with ten or more pairs per leaflet, with rolled under margins.  The lower pair of leaflets are very triangular, and get more and more reduced as it reaches the end of the frond. Sori are continuous and marginal, protected by the rolled leaf margin.


  • Deciduous fern that likes many different environments
  • Can get between 3 and 5 meters tall
  • Erect, solitary ferns that are three times pinnate
  • Pinnae are triangular shaped and hairy, with 10+ pairs per leaflet
  • Rolled margins


Sitka spruce (picea sitchensis)

The Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is a coniferous evergreen, typically up to 70 meters tall and two meters in diameter, but can get as high as 100 meters tall. It is the largest spruce, as well as the fifth largest tree in the world, and the third largest conifer. It is immediately characterized by the branches with spirally-arranged needles that are stiff and very sharp. They can get up to three centimeters long, and have two lines of stomata on the upper surface of the needle. The needles themselves are flattened yet four-sided. It produces bright red pollen cones, up to eight centimeters long, with irregular, wavy and thin scales.

Ponderosa pine (pinus ponderosa)

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa willamettensis) is a type of pine that prefers more inland sites. Also known as the yellow pine, it is characterized by its long needles, grouped into threes ten to twenty centimeters long. Its scaly bark is cinnamon-brown and to some smells like vanilla. Its cones are prominent, usually in groups of threes, shaped like an egg. The scales are thick with triangular, pointed tips arranged in a spiral pattern down the center. It is associated with Douglas-fir in many inner forests of the Pacific coast, as far east as Oklahoma and as south as Texas.


Western redcedar

The Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata [thoo-yah plee-kaata], Pacific redcedar, giant cedar, shinglewood) is a magnificent coniferous evergreen in the cypress family Cupressaceae. It is home in western North America, and can reach up to sixty meters tall. Its branches are like the incense-cedar in that they droop down slightly then bend up. Bark is very unique; red-brown to gray and fibrous. The leaves on the redcedar are scale-like, opposite pairs in four rows. In the two pairs, one pair is folded, the others closely pressed against the stem. Unlike an incense-cedar that grows in symmetry, the needles on the redcedar tend to be to one side. It produces numerous, egg-shaped, red seed cones with eight to twelve scales, and prefers moist, shaded soil.


Vine maple (acer circinatum)

The vine maple (Acer circinatum) is a deciduous maple shrub/small tree that can grow to seven meters tall. The branches are very independent and tend to root and form new thickets of vine maple. The stems become pale green and dull brown with time. It has maple leaves, as the name implies, which are oppositely arranged. They can reach five to twelve centimeters across, and differ from other maples with seven to nine lobes, toothed and hairy underneath. It produces white flowers six to nine millimeters across, those of which are arranged in clusters at the end of the shoots. It produces winged fruits two to four centimeters long, each pair with its own set of widely-spaced wings, which enable them to travel farther for seed dispersal. It prefers moist places and can survive under other canopies, typically where light can enter the forest floor, but sometimes at the edges of forests and ecotones.


A field guide