Does the shape above come to mind when you think of ferns? Probably not. Does the one below?
Adder’s tongue ferns (Ophioglossum vulgatum) don’t exactly stand out in the crowd of spring growth. This one stood just under 4 inches tall and had more growing to do. They are a perennial. I know where to look for these every spring near the gravel road beside my rural property. The ferns grow in damp patches in fields and woodlands, and die back in mid summer.
The fertile spike, where spores develop, will grow taller. The name “adder’s tongue” comes from spike’s resemblance to a snake’s tongue. Adder’s tongue and grape ferns are succulent ferns. They aren’t closely related to other ferns and are among the most primitive of ferns. Grape ferns have an overall triangular shape.
Typical ferns, like the Christmas fern above, emerge first as fiddleheads and continue to uncurl as they grow. Christmas ferns commonly grow in moist woods.