A Polypody in Summer

Troubled at first when our ferns polypodium californicum (California polypody) died back in June, I now enjoy the polypody’s use of dormancy to survive the harsh, dry summer of California. In our Mediterranean climate, we have mild, wet winters and dry, hot summers. Very appropriately, the polypody fern is lush and green when we have rain, and it goes dormant in the summer, when we get little rain for six months.

To illustrate how the polypody fades as summer nears, here are photos of the same fern frond at one-week intervals this June. On June 1, the polypody frond is turning yellow with some burnt spots. The fronds in the background are in deeper shade, and they are green.

polypody frond, 6/1
polypody frond, 6/1

One week later, the frond is no longer green, and the frond tips are brown. Sunlight filtered by an oak tree shines on the frond and lights the spider webs on the frond tips.

polypody frond, 6/8
polypody frond, 6/8

Two weeks after the initial photo, the polypody frond, now brown and curled, lies on the oak leaf litter. Fronds in deeper shade are still green, and some are fading.

polypody frond, 6/15
polypody frond, 6/15

The polypody, a California native plant, is a visible harbinger of summer.

I’m learning to use depth of field to focus attention on the subject, the polypody frond. When the frond was upright, I photographed it in a single plane where the entire frond was about the same distance from the camera. Therefore, I could use a narrow depth of field. By the 15th, the frond had fallen toward where I shot the first photos. To use the same viewpoint as before, I needed a greater depth of field to still keep the frond in focus and blur out the background.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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