As the reds and yellows of fall begin to fade, my eyes are drawn from the canopy to the forest floor, where spots of green create a vibrant contrast with the fallen leaves. Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) is a common fern found in mixed conifer and deciduous woodlands, thriving in moist, shaded to partly-shaded environments. It is native from Southern Alaska to California, with isolated populations existing in Idaho and Arizona.
Licorice fern often grows on the mossy trunks and branches of deciduous trees, but can also be found on mossy rocks, logs, or the forest floor. Fronds have simple pinnae with pointed tips, and often swoop downward from their perch on tree trunks and branches. Licorice fern is named for its rhizomes, which taste of licorice. These rhizomes were used medicinally by Native Americans as a remedy for coughs, colds, and sore throats.