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Montana Field Guides

Common Moonwort - Botrychium lunaria
Other Names:  Botrychium neolunaria sp. nov. ined.

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4
(see State Rank Reason below)
C-value: 4

Agency Status


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
See rank details.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Common Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 06/01/2012
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    Score1-2 - Small to Moderate. Population size is imprecisely known but is believed to be >2,000 individuals and <100,000 individuals.

    Range Extent

    Score0 - Widespread species within Montana (occurs in 5% or more of the state or generally occurring in 6 or more sub-basins.) as well as outside of Montana.

    Area of Occupancy

    Score0 - High: Occurs in >25 Subwatersheds (6th Code HUC’s).

    Environmental Specificity

    Score0-1 - Low to Moderate.


    Score0-1 - Stable to Minor Declines:

    CommentActual trends are unknown, though the likelihood of severe declines appears to be minor.


    Score0-1 - Low to Medium.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    Score1-2 - Moderate to High Vulnerability.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 2 to 7 total points scored out of a possible 19.

General Description
Moonwort is a very small, perennial fern with a single aboveground frond. The dark-green frond is usually about 4 inches long and can be seen through mid-summer. It is divided into two leaves above a common stalk. The sterile leaf is usually dark green, thick, and fleshy. It has up to 9 usually overlapping pairs of broadly fan-shaped leaflets (pinnae). The top edges are rounded and smooth or wavy or rarely have teeth. The fertile leaf is longer than the sterile leaf with branches that bear grape-like sporangia. Spores germinate underground and develop into tiny, non-photosynthetic gametophytes which depend on an fungus for nourishment. Our plants are variety crenulatum (Donald Farrar; Iowa State Univeristy, unpublished).

Leaves appearing in midspring, dying in latter half of summer.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The name Botrychium neolunaria sp. nov. ined. will likely replace the name B. lunaria within North America as unpublished research has shown that material from N.A. is "greatly different genetically" from Eurasian material (Farrar 2011).

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
In MT in the western third of state east to Park County; subspecies crenulatum occurs from BC and AB south to CA, NV, UT, and east to WY with disjunct occurrences in northern MN and the souther end of Hudson Bay in ON and QC (Donald Farrar, Iowa State University, unpublished).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 95

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Various mesic sites from low to moderate elevations, including roadsides and other disturbed habitats. Sites are generally open with montane meadows and grasslands being the most common habitats occupied by the species.

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Farrar, Donald. 2011. Moonwort (Botrychium) Systematics. Ada Hayden Herbarium. Iowa State University.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
    • Mantas, M. and R.S. Wirt. 1995. Moonworts of western Montana (Botrychium subgenus Botrychium). Flathead National Forest. 103 pp.
    • Schmid, E. and F. Oberwinkler. 1994. Light and electron microscopy of the host-fungus interaction in the achlorophyllous gametophyte of Botrychium lunaria. Canadian Journal of Botany 72: 182-188.
    • Wagner, W.H., Jr. and P.L. Lord. 1956. The morphological and cytological distinctness of Botrychium minganense and B. lunaria in Michigan. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 83(4): 261-280.
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Citation for data on this website:
Common Moonwort — Botrychium lunaria.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from