“Western Sword Fern & Spore Pods”

Western Sword Fern & Spore Pods, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon (c) Mike Utley

Silver Falls State Park lies about 24 miles from Salem, Oregon and is home to ten waterfalls along the Trail of Ten Falls loop, with South Falls being the most visited in the park. While exploring near the bowl of South Falls, I came across a particular cluster of western sword ferns which had some of its fronds flipped over by a recent rainstorm. I was immediately fascinated by the multitude of yellow-orange spore pods on the frond’s underbelly. I was raised in an arid region of the southwestern U.S. which was too dry for ferns, so my experience with them was extremely limited. This frond presented both a learning experience and a compositional delight. The long, flowing diagonal line separates the image into lighter and darker halves, and the warmly hued spore pods seem to glow against the cool green background. I always carried a couple of nature guide books in my camera backpack in order to properly identify various plants and animals I’d encounter, and these guides came in handy that day as I’d never before seen a fern with spore pods. This was one of the joys of my nature photography daysβ€”discovering things I’d never seen or had never paid attention to before. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

58 thoughts on ““Western Sword Fern & Spore Pods”

    1. Thanks a bunch. You’re so right–there are so many amazing patterns in nature, and the infinite hues are why I went into color photography rather than black and white. I love b&w nature photography but colors speak to me much more loudly and profoundly, you know? I’m happy you liked this one. Much appreciated! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, David. The funny thing is, I never would have thought to look on the underside of a fern frond to see what was there. If the rainstorm hadn’t blown these fronds around like it did, I never would have known. It reminds me of an old candy called Candy Dots or Candy Buttons, which were tiny button-shaped candies on paper strips that you’d peel off and gobble up. (I didn’t gobble up any of these fern spores, I assure you…) πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks, Gary. It was one of those serendipitous things, I suppose. I went to Silver Falls to photograph waterfalls and ended up discovering spore pods. Nature always has something up her sleeve, a little surprise here and there to keep us on our toes. I’m willing to bet that with your extensive and excellent photographic work, you’ve probably stumbled across some pretty cool things out in the field that surprised you as well. It’s one of the things I miss most about nature photography. Even on days when I didn’t expose a single frame of film, I still discovered new things about the natural world. Thanks for your kind words, good sir! I truly appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Lamittan. I suppose one never knows what one will find when flipping over a new leaf, as it were. πŸ™‚ Glad you found it interesting. It was neat surprise, indeed. Also, kudos on “Cor blimey!” I haven’t heard that expression since the Austin Powers movies! πŸ˜€

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  1. I used to have so many of these growing on the side of my house in Wisconsin. They weren’t purposely planted, but just liked the damp, shady spot and somehow found their way there. I enjoyed them so much, but I’m betting others found them a nuisance as they seemed to pop up wherever they wanted. Beautiful picture as always.

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    1. I think I’d love having a bunch of ferns growing nearby. I find them fascinating and beautiful. I suppose a lot of that has to do with growing up in a dry region with no ferns. Some people find sage brush gorgeous, but I really dislike the stuff since it was all over the farm. I’d have gladly traded the sage brush for the ferns. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the nice comment, Michelle. I always appreciate your kind words. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Xenia. It was certainly a surprise to me when I saw those spores. I wasn’t sure what they were at first, but my suspicions were confirmed when I checked my plant guide book. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon this discovery. I suppose it pays to lift stuff up and look under it, eh? πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks a bunch, Kirsten. I was surprised by how precise the spore pattern was. It really did almost appear as though someone stitched them onto the frond. I knew that woodland faerie with a sewing kit I saw earlier looked suspicious… πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Lincol. You’re so right–there’s always something new to discover just around the corner (or under the nearest fern frond). πŸ˜€ I appreciate your kindness. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Mark. It looked unreal to me at first. I did a double-take, then stared at it for a while, wondering what it was. Bug eggs? Too precise a pattern. Some sort of mold? Couldn’t be. Spores? Let me check my plant guide book. Yup, spores! This frond was almost pristine–there were other fronds with spores that were battered or had torn leaves or other defects. This one was just sort of perfect. It’s so cool to come across things like this while out hiking I remember the first time I ever saw elephant head flowers, for example. Such a fun discovery that was. Getting into photography enabled me to see things I never noticed before, and made hiking and walking trips an adventure. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. It’s indeed a magical place. I was there twice–in early October ’95 and early January ’96–and the difference couldn’t have been more stark. The falls in January were like an order of magnitude more immense than in October. Oregon’s rainy season had produced massive volumes of water, and many of the falls didn’t look anything like they did in October. The mood was also much darker in January, with heavy mists, lack of foliage (bushes, deciduous trees) and cooler temperatures. No matter what time of the year I was there, I kept expecting to see dinosaurs trundling about in the mists. It’s a fascinating place with such a primordial personality. πŸ™‚

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  2. I loved the detailing. Interesting name. It brings me a few old memories I couldn’t erase. Years ago when I wasn’t much in the writing business, I portrayed the character Pariah and now I see that it doesn’t hold water whether someone likes me or not. What matters is the person has self-esteem and is doing what one likes. For God’s sake, I am not going to draw, paint or cook anything just because I am being forced. I am okay with not being liked.

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  3. Jeff K

    The image is so good I had to take my antihistamine before I could look at it! So interesting to see the hidden parts of nature.

    Fantastic colors and image comp, Mike!

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  4. Beauty like this can only be found in nature. I’m glad that you take a deep interest in knowing what you are clicking. That’s responsible and passionate creativity. I stared at the photo for several minutes. It seems as if the yellow has been embroidered on to the green. And the two colors go so well together. Would be difficult to replicate. A lovely one, Mike! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Terveen. It really does have the appearance of needlework. And the color combo is so pleasant and soothing to the eyes. I really do like to find out exactly what I’m seeing in nature. I grew up being told a lot of misinformation about flower and plant names, for example–none of it was malicious, mind you–and I only found out the proper names once I began my exploration of photography. We tend to see new things the more we look for them, and this was a delightful discovery for me. I’m glad to know you found it pleasing. I appreciate you kindness as always. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Cindy. It was a beautiful hike, indeed. Silver Falls State Park is like a place stuck in the primordial past. It feels ancient and it’s so tranquil. Really a good spot to clear one’s mind and enjoy the natural beauty of nature (and waterfalls a-plenty!). πŸ™‚

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    1. I’m fascinated with ferns and always loved my treks into the mountains in part because of the proliferation of ferns on the forest floor. As Aaysid said in her comment above, they’re “magical.” Honestly, and this may sound silly, but I think a big part of my love of ferns comes from a book I read in fourth grade titled Where the Red Fern Grows (by Wilson Rawls), about a boy and his two hunting dogs in the Ozark Mountains. Also, I think ferns lend themselves so easily to poetic imagery. Hopefully I can make it up into the mountains soon and experience these magical plants again. It’s been a while. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. This was one of those scenes you sort of stumble across and it stops you in your tracks. I’d never seen fern spore pods before, so I was fascinated. Oregon never disappoints when it comes to wonder and beauty. πŸ™‚

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