Botrychium multifidum

Leathery Grape Fern

Leathery Grape Fern, Farm Lake, Photo copyright 2002 by Earl J.S. Rook
Leathery Grape Fern
Farm Lake, St. Louis County, Minnesota
Photo © 2002 by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Botrychium, from the Greek botrus (botrys), "grape"; the Grape Ferns
  • multifidum, from the Latin multifidus, "multiply divided"
  • Leathery Grape Fern, from the texture of the leaf
  • Other common names include Broadleaf Grape Fern, Clausen Grape Fern, Common Grape Fern, Botryche multifide, Botryche à feuille couchée (Qué), Botrychium à feuilles de Rue, Botrychium à feuilles multifides (Fr), Sokcimpájú Holdruta (Hun), Höstlåsbräken, Lågbladig, Låsbräken (Swe), Haustmarinøkkel (Nor), Stilk-månerude (Dan), Ahonoidanlukko (Fin), Vielteilige Mondraute (Ger),


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Polypodiophyta, the True Ferns
      • Class Filicopsida
        • Order Ophioglossales
          • Family Ophioglossaceae, the Adder's Tongue or Succulent Ferns
            • Genus Botrychium, the Grape Ferns
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 17187
  • Also known as Botrychium californicum, Botrychium coulteri, Botrychium matricariae, Botrychium rutaceum, Botrychium silaifolium
  • Twelve species of Grape Fern (Botrychium spp.) occur in Canoe Country, all but Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum) being rare or extremely rare. These are woodland jewels, rarely seen.


  • Largest of the Little Grape Ferns; stout, coarse, rather fleshy and leathery, 6"-8" tall.
  • Sterile Frond a single leaf bright green, broadly triangular, 3"x3", with 3-5 leaflets. Leaf stem long and prominent. Previous year's leaf retained over winter.
    • Leaflets densely clustered and overlapping
  • Fertile frond widely branched
  • Stem stout and succulent, semi-erect; branches from fertile frond near the ground.
  • Rootstalk erect
    • Roots few, but thick and coarse, spreading widely about 3" below the surface, resembling earthworms


  • Identifiable as a Grape Fern by its diminutive size, succulent stem, and single leaf.
  • Distinguished from other small Grape Ferns by the relatively large, broadly triangular leaf, with dense overlapping leaflets and long, prominent leaf stalk.
  • Distinguished from the larger Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum) by its smaller size, coarse leathery texture, and long leaf stalk.
  • Field Marks
    • small size
    • succulent stem
    • single broadly triangular leaf on long stalk with overlapping leaflets
    • branched clusters on fertile frond


  • Alaska to Newfoundland, south to California, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia. Also Greenland, Europe, and northwest Asia.
  • Rare but generally well distributed over range.


  • Widespread mainly in fields; open, grassy places
  • Acid, often sandy, soils.






  • Reproduces by spores


  • By spores (difficult)


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Not generally cultivated.



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Last Updated on 26 February, 2004