I think there are 7 different ferns growing in Catbrook Wood and possibly more if you take Ninewells wood as a whole.
They are as follows.
Broad Buckler Fern Dryopteris dilatata
Scaly Male Fern Dryopteris affinis
Hard Fern Blechnum spicant
Polypody Polypodium interjectum
Bracken Pteridium aquilinium
Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum).
Hearts tongue Fern Phyllitis scolopendrium
OK now for some photos descriptions and other assorted information.
Scally Male Fern, Dryopteris affinis. This is a big Fern, it almost develops a bit like a New Zealand tree-fern but with a very short trunk. Its leaves grow up to 150cm long and each leaf will live for about 18 months so the fern retains its leaves throughout the winter….. This means that during the winter these ferns are very prominent and can easily be seen as the leaves of the other similar fern, the Broad Buckler Fern will have died down. See the two photos below, both taken in March.
Now here is a photo of the Broad Buckler fern taken in the early summer where it does not look quite so bedraggled.
Hard fern, there is not a lot of this in Catbrook wood, probably only 3 or 4 specimens, but it is there and below is a photo taken of one of these individuals. It is not the most stunning example but it does show what it looks like and if you look carefully you can see that it does have two slightly different types of leaf. This is most significant because it is the first tiny evolutionary step towards flowers. Basically the outer leaves are shorter and wider and are solely concerned with photosynthesis. In the centre the leaves grow longer and narrower and in the summer stand upright. ( In this photo taken in March they are somewhat battered down by the winter weather) These central leaves are also green and photosynthesise, but they also produce the spores on the underside of the leaf. So this is the first slight splitting of the roles of reproduction and photosynthesis. In slightly less evolved ferns all leaves carry out both functions. The highest form of this evolution in the ferns is shown in the Royal fern where the spores are produced on a tall stalk growing from the centre of the plant and it does not look anything like a leaf. It also does not look much like a flower, but it’s getting there.
Bracken I do not have a photo of bracken, probably because it is so common and because it is much despised as it is quite invasive and difficult to get rid off.
There is quite a lot of Heart’s tongue Fern on the wall of Cicelyford wood which is part of Ninewells wood and is next to Catbrook wood, only separated by a small private drive, and yet it is not on the wall of Catbrook wood, this being dominated by Polypody. It is intriguing why a plant will grow in one place but not in another place which looks identical and is only 20/30 meters away, obviously there must be a reason. Here is a photo of a rather poor specimen but it is growing literally 5 meters from the Catbrook wood boundary .
Finally here is a photo of a small fern which is growing out of the wall next to the road, it looks different to other ferns I have seen in the woods and it has these leaves at the beginning of April which suggests they have been there all winter. Any ideas? I will try to identify it but am struggling at the moment. Your small fern is Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum).