Small Adder's-tongue Fern © Andrew CleaveThe most obvious fern on Lundy is Bracken Pteridium aquilinum which thrives on the sheltered east side and on top of the island where there are deeper soils, but it even grows on the exposed western cliffs in a more stunted form. The smallest fern on Lundy is the Small Adder’s-tongue Fern Ophioglossum azoricum, and this diminutive plant is probably more common here than in some of its other sites on the mainland. It grows in the short turf on the western slopes, near Rocket Pole Pond and in Middle Park, often associated with the very small flowering plant Allseed Radiola linoides. Hay-scented Buckler Fern Dryopteris aemula is abundant along the east side, especially around the quarries, but this also grows on the exposed western flanks of the island, such as around Jenny’s Cove and this is also easier to find on Lundy than on the mainland.

Other common fern species on the island are Broad Buckler-fern Dryopteris dilatata, Lady Fern Athyrium foelix-foemina and Male Fern Dryopeteris filix-mas which can all be found in Millcombe and also in the deep rocky crevices of the earthquake. Hart’s-tongue Fern Phyllitis scolopendrium, recognised by its undivided fronds also favours the shelter of Millcombe.

Royal Fern © Andrew CleaveBritain’s largest fern, the Royal Fern Osmunda regalis grows on the east side, and can be found in the quarries, often appearing to grow out of the solid rock, although it is usually more stunted in these situations. Lundy’s stone walls form an important habitat for ferns and other plants and there are fine colonies of Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes , Black Spleenwort Asplenium nigrum and Common Polypody Polypodium vulgaris, some of them easily found in the village area. There are two colonies of Rustyback Fern Ceterach officinalis on Lundy, both growing on walls, and a very small number of plants of Wall Rue Aspelnium ruta-muraria can be found in two locations. This species is common on the mainland but very scarce on Lundy. Sea Spleenwort Asplenium marinum grows nearer to the sea than other ferns and can be found around the Battery and the wall at the start of the beach road.

Text by Andrew Cleave

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