Detail of an ostrich fern in spring, Washington, USA
© Stephen Matera/Tandem Stills + Motio
Best fronds forever
Each of these tiny fern appendages, known as fronds, is made up of even tinier leaves - but they won't be tiny for long. Ostrich ferns like this one, named after their tapering fronds that resemble feathers, can be almost 6ft tall once mature.
The fern group of evergreen plants is ecologically crucial here in the US state of Washington, also known as the Evergreen State. Ferns help keep soil nutrients in balance beneath the area’s mighty fir, hemlock and red cedar canopies. Deer, elk, beavers and sometimes even bears eat the frilly plants. And indigenous peoples in the area have long used certain types of ferns as both a source of food and of pain-relief medicine. Spiral-shaped sprouts from ferns, known as fiddleheads, are enjoyed around the world as a tasty green vegetable and the ostrich fern is sometimes called the fiddlehead fern, as its sprouts are especially prized.