Rusty Woodsia:
Surprise on a Rock Shelf

By William T. Hathaway

Rusty Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis)

On a cold, windy day in November, 1975 the top of Buffalo Mountain in Floyd County, Virginia enabled me to enjoy one of those “thrills of a naturalist's quest.” On the leeward side of a large rock shelf, well sheltered from the raging wind, there was a fern (Woodsia ilvensis) that I had never seen before. Adding this little species to my photo-fern collection made my day — after all, there are only a comparatively few ferns and this addition would complete my expectations for a fern/photo group. As for the rusty color and fragrant features attributed to this fern, I had no trouble understanding the older-leaf color, but I suppose the cold weather kept me from smelling its fragrance.

I shall never forget the strange event that took place when I climbed the steps of the Buffalo Mountain lookout fire tower; a sudden gust of wind broke my cigar neatly in half, leaving me with a non-smoldering stump.

Also see this illustration in larger format, and also Ferns of Pittsylvania County, Virginia.