An unusual fern of damp grasslands, especially on lime soils.
Adder's-tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) is a small plant you can walk by and not know it is there. It is little more than an inch or so high and it looks like the leaves of a flower that has just come up above the ground. It is really a case of getting down on your hands and knees for a good look at this. It is a bit like wild arum with a sheath enclosing a central spike. It is, however, a spleenwort (part of the fern family structure) and not an flower at all. I only found this thanks to help from a ranger at Durlston which is the only place I have knowingly seen it.
The plant is visible from May through until November; the central stem that is supposed to resemble a snakes tongue is not a flower spike in the conventional sense but it is the organ that emits the spores. This stem is not alwys present.
My book describes it as widespread and frequent in lowlands, especially in damp meadows, scrub and open woodlands on limestone soils and so I guess that is why it grows at Durlston! I have never seen it anywhere else and I understood this to be a rare plant, after all limestone is not that common a rock or soil type.
This species has been seen at the following sites featured on the Nature of Dorset:
This map shows the nature reserves and 'hot-spots' featured on the Nature of Dorset where this species has been seen. Obviously it will occur in other places too but this is intended to give you a graphical guide as to the species distribution in Dorset. Click any marker to see the name of the site; you can then click again to see more information about that site.
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This website has been created by, and is the copyright of, Peter Orchard, Wareham, Dorset. The website is run as a hobby and the information is made available free of charge to anyone who finds it useful. No responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions in the data and information supplied. Copyright of all photographs on this website (unless otherwise stated) remains with the publisher or the contributor and they should not be used by others for any purpose without permission.
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