SAUK COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) – A Wisconsin family who was hiking in Sauk County rediscovered a rare cliff-dwelling fern that has not been seen in 90 years. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Friday that Ben Redding, a DNR Rare Plant Monitoring Program volunteer, was hiking with his kids and their dog when they unearthed a population of maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes).

According to missouribotanicalgarden.org, maidenhair spleenwort are rhizomatous, evergreen fern found on moist, shaded, rocky slopes, screes, and cliffs in much of temperate North America, Central America, Europe, and Asia.

“These discoveries are very exciting. They help increase our understanding of the number and locations of rare plant species to better monitor and protect them,” said Kevin Doyle, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Botanist and Rare Plant Monitoring Program Coordinator.

DNR officials noted that the Badger state has 322 plants considered rare, meaning they are listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.

In order to help conserve these plants, the DNR has established a Rare Plant Monitoring Program, to which Redding belongs, that trains and sends volunteers to check on the health and size of rare native plant populations.

“The information these trained volunteers collect for us is critical for understanding how rare plant populations are doing in Wisconsin and informs our next steps like research projects or management action to sustain these rare plants,” Doyle said.

Additionally, the volunteer program, which has been around since 2013, is now the largest source of rare plant data in Wisconsin, said the DNR.

To learn more about rare plants across Wisconsin or to get involved with conservation efforts of said plants, visit the DNR’s Rare Plant Monitoring Program website.