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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

07 March, 2014

A right royal fern!

I have been unable to track down why this fern should be called the 'Royal Fern', the best suggestion seems to be that it is due to its imposing size and stature. There is no reason why this should not be the case, of course, but it would have been far more interesting if King Peter the first had hidden behind one to avoid capture by elephants! What is interesting I suppose is that the royal fern (Osmunda regalis) may have derived its Latin name
from Osmunder, the Saxon name for the Viking god Thor. Regalis implies regal so the common name seems to be a direct link to its scientific name. Why it is connected to Thor remains lost in time it seems!
The royal fern can be found right across Europe and favours damp, even boggy, wooded areas. In Dorset I have not found it that often but where it does occur it is likely to be present in some profusion. At the Dorset Wildlife Trust at Tadnoll there is lots of it near the Tadnoll brook. In general this a fern that is declining due to habitat loss from drainage schemes and past over collection.
It is not evergreen like some ferns, creating new fronds each year from the ever increasing clump of roots. This can make the whole plant extremely imposing as it grows with age.  It is quite unmistakable for anything else, it is really a right royal fern!
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