The Licorice Fern Trail is a 1.4 mile out and back hike that might just be my favorite stretch of trail in the Alderbrook Woods. With the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalks and Salmonberry Bridge making a graceful, dry hike out of a soggy thicket, you are free to explore the Dalby Creek ravine and all its wonders… one of which is the Licorice Fern itself.
As many deciduous plants are dropping their leaves and going dormant during the fall season, the Licorice Fern is doing just the opposite. The fern thrives in the cool, moist weather of the rainy season and loses its fronds in hot, dry weather of summer.
The Licorice Fern commonly grows epiphytically, especially on Bigleaf Maple trees, but it can also be found growing on fallen logs, rocks, and thick mats of moss. Its latin name is Polypodium glycyrrhiza, which translates to many-footed sweet root. This describes its growth habit of growing out of many points, instead of one main crown, like many other ferns. “Sweet root” is self explanatory, with its sweet, licorice tasting root having been used by Northwesterners for ages as a sweetener and soother for sore throats.
I’ve tasted the Licorice Fern root, and truthfully, it’s not something that I have a hankering for, but a hike along the Licorice Fern Trail sure is… just be sure to make it out before the hot summer hits in order to spot the fern.
All the best,