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Click to read about the Botrychium genus and to find links to more information about Botrychiums.

Botrychium pallidum

Botrychium pallidum

Botrychium pallidum (Pale Moonwort)
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's Tongue Family)

Montane, subalpine. alpine. Meadows, disturbed areas. Summer, fall.
Cross Mountain Trail, August 30, 2019.

Botrychium pallidum (soon to be published as Botrychium furculatum) grows to about 5 inches tall and prefers open habitat. Here it is shown in a seasonal moist environment in an opening between many other plants at about 11, 500 feet (See photograph above).

B. pallidum is characterized first by its pale green color (compare to the much more lustrous green of other Botrychium, especially B. minganense, with which it can be confused with). Farrar indicates further characteristics:

The pinna sides of B. minganense are concave near the rachis and are more or less straight along the pinna blade. Pinna sides of B. pallidum are more concave throughout and most strongly so near their juncture with the outer margin, giving the pinna a mushroom shape. Outer pinna margins of B. minganense are entire, or if lobed, symmetrically so. Outer pinna margins of B. pallidum are often unevenly divided with the upper lobe longer and broader than the lower lobe. This unequal division can also be seen in the basal branches of the sporophore, those of B. minganense being symmetrically branched whereas those of B. pallidum are divided into a longer upper and shorter lower branch.

B. pallidum is one of just a few Botrychium that may have their sporophore and trophophore connected below ground level. Also note the narrow span (about 90°) of its pinnae and the shape of the uppermost pinnae.

Click to read Don Farrar's page on Botrychium pallidum. 

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum (Pinnate Moonwort)
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's Tongue Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, disturbed areas. Summer, fall.
Molas Pass (near Silverton), September 28, 2010.

The above photographs give some idea of the difficulty in finding Botrychiums.  The top photograph is taken from about five feet above the ground, the second photograph from about three feet above the ground.  The Botrychium pinnatum in the close-up photographs below show the rewarding beauty of finding Botrychium. The yellowing Botrychium in the final photographs is the same plant shown in the center of each of the above photographs. 

The key to finding Botrychium is to retrain your eyes and brain so that you look at the bare spots between vegetation.  Don't get distracted by the flowers and grasses.

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum (Pinnate Moonwort)
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's Tongue Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, disturbed areas. Summer, fall.
El Diente Trail, August 10, 2011.

The B. pinnatum lying at a steep angle to the left has withered at its base and will soon die.  The upright plant is thriving. 

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum (Pinnate Moonwort)
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's Tongue Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, disturbed areas. Summer, fall.
Cross Mountain Trail, August 30, 2019.

This B. pinnatum is almost 4 inches tall and although it received a good start from the near-record snows of 2018-2019, it did not reach full, normal development because there were almost no summer rains in 2019. 

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum (Pinnate Moonwort)
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's Tongue Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, disturbed areas. Summer, fall.
El Diente Trail, August 10, 2011.

The photographs immediately above and to the left show mature Botrychium pinnatum with the trophophore (the leafy portion of Botrychiums) fully open and the sporophore near full development. 

Botrychium pinnatum basal pinnae (leaflets) are broadest at the bottom and often, as shown here, deeply lobed on both the upper and lower margins.  Upper pinnae are usually very slightly or not lobed and they are narrower than the lower pinnae.

The stalk of the Botrychium pinnatum trophophore is 0-2 millimeters long, the sporophore stalk is much longer, and the common stalk that supports the plant from the ground upward may be from 9-25 millimeters long.

Botrychium pinnatum is classified as a rare plant in the Four Corners area but we find it on many of our mountain hikes.

Click to read Don Farrar's page on B. pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum (Pinnate Moonwort)
Ophioglossaceae (Adder's Tongue Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, disturbed areas. Summer, fall.
Molas Pass (near Silverton), September 28, 2010.

The two photographs at left show Botrychium pinnatum late in the season.  The photograph immediately above these shows the plant at its most robust stage.  With some perseverance, one can find various Botrychium over a period of at least three months.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Botrychium pallidum

Range map for Botrychium pallidum

Botrychium pinnatum

Range map for Botrychium pinnatum