Adder's-tongue Fern

Ophioglossum vulgatum

  1. Wildlife
  2. Ferns and horsetails
  3. Adder's-tongue Fern


Adder's-tongue Fern is an unusual fern that grows in old grasslands, on hillsides, along woodland rides and on sand dunes. It usually appears between June and August, spending the rest of the year underground as a rhizome. It is considered a good indicator species of ancient meadows and can be found alongside Common Spotted-orchids, Quaking Grass and Devil's-bit Scabious.

How to identify

With its bright green, oval and upright frond, and its single, tall spike bearing the spores, the Adder's-tongue Fern is unmistakeable. It mostly only has one frond, but sometimes has a pair.

Where to find it

Widespread but localised distribution and not very common.


When to find it

  • June
  • July
  • August

How can people help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and woodland edge habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of species, including the Adder's-tongue Fern. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time and scrub clearance are just some of the ways grasslands are kept in good condition - supporting numerous plants and invertebrates and, in turn, the larger animals that eat them. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.

Species information

Common name
Adder's-tongue Fern
Latin name
Ophioglossum vulgatum
Ferns and horsetails
Height: 10-20cm
Conservation status