Wandering around the wildflower area at the arboretum last week, I noticed a lone fiddlehead emerging after the night's rain. It was still partially coiled, and its curved fronds cupped the droplets like loving hands.
Once my eyes had picked out the first fiddlehead, I noticed that they were in fact all around me beside the path.
This particular fiddlehead is known as the Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytonia). A furry cloak surrounds the young fiddleheads, warming and protecting this early spring riser.
The emerging fiddlehead gradually sheds its shaggy coat.
Two kinds of fronds emerge. The smooth leaves form the non-fertile fronds of the fern.
These tender, bumpy leaves are called sporophylls and produce spores that are the fertile part of the plant.
Later these fertile fronds will darken and fall off, interrupting the pattern of fronds on the mature fern, thus giving the fern its name.
I suspect that somewhere among these clumps of Interrupted Ferns is a baby fiddlehead born without its protective cloak because of a chance mutation. Perhaps the unseasonably warm spring day on which it emerges allows this mutant to survive without its covering.
Unlike its protected neighbors, the naked Interrupted Fern feels every drop of rain like a blow. The sun pierces like needles into its raw skin. The wind chafes.
The unprotected fern survives. Its fronds unfurl to reach out to the world, its early sensitivities replaced by wonder. It takes nothing for granted. In fact, its delicate fronds feel more keenly the warm slide of a summer raindrop along its stalk. It arches to catch the last pure light of the day. The wind becomes a caress. Sensitivity becomes its strength.