Ferns have no true stems. Their leaves are fronds, 2 to 4 feet (.7 to 1.5 meters) long, wide and spreading. Pinnae are oblong and rounded, with their edges slightly notched and their surfaces somewhat furrowed. The son, or clusters of spore cases, appear on the upper half of the frond at the back of the pinnules, in round masses toward the base of the segments. The fruits are spores, dustlike and almost invisible. The rhizome is horizontal and creeping. The crown forms a brown, tangled mass.
The shield fern grows in most wooded, moist areas throughout Alaska. Dryopteris fragrans in the Interior is smaller.
The therapeutic action of the rhizome is anthelmintic, astringent, tonic, and vulnerary. Lantis calls it a comforting tea for the gut, used by Alaskan Natives. Kari reports that the Lime villagers say to boil it hard, then wash your eyes with the cooled tea or drink it for kidney trouble and breathing problems such as asthma.
Curled fiddleheads (new fronds) are edible.
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Copyright © 1987 by Eleanor G. Viereck