by Joshua Heston

If you find the web carefully, you’ll learn the truth. Truth that red ferns exist just the realm of cryptobotany.

You are watching: What does a red fern look like

What does the mean? It means the red fern is a figment. Made-up. A bit of literary imagining. A myth.

Sort of favor bigfoot. But prettier.

That’s if you search the web carefully.

But if you room willing to actually gain out and be a part of the world we phone call ourselves we study, girlfriend just might find miscellaneous amazing.

Like the truth.

Is the plant on this page a “true” fern? probably not. Yet it’s frilly and also fern-like. It’s shade is unmistakable, if mute by the February chill.

To native Ozarkers, that is nothing an ext and nothing less than a red fern.

A plant clever folks say no exist.

May 11, 2009

publication Excerpt:

In 1961, Wilson Rawls would write a book around a boy, his coonhounds and also the Ozark hills.

Generations the school youngsters would be touch by his work. Contained here is a quick excerpt together it has the old Red Fern legend:

“Papa, would certainly you mind waiting a few minutes?” ns asked. “I’d favor to to speak good-bye to mine dogs.”

“Sure,” he stated smiling. “We have actually plenty of time. Go best ahead.”

Nearing the graves, I witnessed something different.

It looked choose a wild bush had grown increase and nearly covered the two tiny mounds.It made me upset to think the an old bush would dare grow so close come the graves.

I took the end my knife, intended to cut it down.

When ns walked increase close enough to check out what that was, I suck in a mouthful the air and stopped. Ns couldn"t think what ns was seeing.

There in between the graves, a beautiful red fern had sprung up from the rich hill soil. That was fully two feet tall and its long red leaves had actually reached the end in rainbow arcs curved end the graves of mine dogs.

I had actually heard the old Indian legend around the red fern.

How a tiny Indian boy and girl were shed in a blizzard and had frozen come death.

In the spring, as soon as they to be found, a beautiful red fern had actually grown up between their two bodies.

The story went on come say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never ever died; wherein one grew, that spot to be sacred.

— pages 245-46, where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, Bantam books 1961


Plate 1.

southern Grapefern (Sceptridium biternatum)

by Joshua Heston

Where the Red Fern grow is a mighty well-known book. So much so, ours Red Fern page is among the most well-known on Google searches. Once this page was created back in 2009, all the info our great world wide web could churn out was surprisingly scarce and also yet very opinionated:

Red ferns do not exist.

Plate 2.

But I favor magic and also myth and folklore and I really choose it when photography backs me up. On a mossy bump of dust at the basic of Turner Spring’s branch, just before it empties right into the river, we found the tree pictured below on this page.

It’s red. And it certain looks choose a fern.

Quite some time later, ns stumbled across Scott Ranger’s Nature Notes, especially on his December 3, 2011 photo journal that Chattahoochee River national Recreation Area. And also there, seven pages down, was my red fern from the Ozarks!

Plate 3.

It is, in fact, (Sceptridium biternatum), or southern Grapefern. Ranger notes, ““Sterile blade largely 2-pinnate, the segments high solution serrulate’ the the two grapeferns that revolve bronze in the late fall for the winter. I presume the bronzing is a kind of sunscreen to defend the inner organization of the blade from sun damages during that is life once the canopy is open and also the sun’s rays struggle the forest floor.” —

There are numerous things i love around this discovery. First, just because a resource says hillbillies don’t know what they space talking about doesn’t typical we have to believe them!

Second, empirical proof is what we can observe through our very own two eye — even much better when it’s photographed. Specifically wonderful as soon as it contradicts dried know-it-all sources.

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Third, Latin name or not, over there is magic in the organic world. The forest floor is one enchanted location where, all scientific proof aside, a spirituality poetry exist to speak to us to greater places.

— Joshua Heston, February 6, 2016