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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Prairie Moonwort - Botrychium campestre

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G3G4
State Rank: S1S2
(see State Rank Reason below)
CCVI: Less Vulnerable

Agency Status
USFS: Sensitive - Known in Forests (KOOT)


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Reported from a very small number of sites in Montana. All occurrences are small with the largest population count at a single site being approximately 2 dozen plants. All known sites are in northwest Montana.
General Description
Prairie Dunewort is a small perennial fern with a single aboveground frond which stands 6-12 cm tall. The frond is divided into two segments, one sterile, one fertile, which share a common stalk; the common stalk is usually 5-10 cm long. The sterile segment is dull, whitish-green, fleshy, usually widest above the middle, and with usually less than six pairs of widely spaced upswept pinnae. The pinnae are linear to spatula shaped; the largest are often bifid at the tip, with the upper division being larger than the lower. The fertile segment is stubby, about as long as or somewhat longer than the sterile segment, and is branched with fleshy, somewhat flattened branches bearing grape-like clusters of sporangia which contain thousands of spores. Spores germinate underground and develop into minute, subterranean, non-photosynthetic gametophytes.

Frond probably maturing in July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Most similar to B. minganense and B. lineare;, which also have relatively narrow, widely spaced pinnae. Distinguished from B. minganense by having a sterile frond segment with smaller, narrower, more dissected, and usually fewer pinnae, a more fleshier axis, and smaller spores, which reflect a lower chromosome number. Distinguished from B. lineare by having a sterile frond segment with a fleshier, broader axis and usually somewhat wider pinnae, and by having a fleshier, shorter fertile frond segment.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
In MT in Lincoln, Flathead and Glacier counties; an unpublished summary by Donald Farrar (Iowa State University) for variety lineare (a tentative but as-yet unpublished infraspecific taxon) indicates a widely erratic distribution from AK to ON and NB, south to CA, east to UT, CO, SD, and MN. Regionally the tentative variety occurs from eastern WA and OR across the ID panhandle into western MT.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 9

(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. Common moonwort associates include B. lunaria, B. lineare, B. crenulatum and B. ascendens. Other moonworts reported at B. campestre sites include B. paradoxum, B. minganense, B. pinnatum, B. spathulatum, B. yaaxudakeit and B. tunux.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Chadde, S. and G. Kudray. 2001. Conservation assessment, Botrychium campestre (Iowa moonwort). Report to the USDA Forest Service, Region 9. 44 pp.
    • Farrar, Donald. 2011. Moonwort (Botrychium) Systematics. Ada Hayden Herbarium. Iowa State University.
    • Johnson-Groh, C. and D. Farrar. 1989. Ecological Monitoring of Botrychium campestre and a new species of Botrychium in western Minnesota. Unpublished report.
    • 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.
    • Wagner, W. and F. Wagner. 1986. Three New Species of Moonworts (Botrychium Subgenus Botrychium) Endemic in Western North America. American Fern Journal 76 (2):3347
    • Wagner, W. H. and F. S. Wagner. 1993. Ophioglossaceae. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 3+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 2, pp. 85-106.
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Citation for data on this website:
Prairie Moonwort — Botrychium campestre.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from