The best way to tell leathery polypody (Polypodium scouleri) from its polypody cousins is by its thick, leathery leaves. But the second-best way is by this fern’s long central frond–shaped rather like an expressive finger. The leaf is highly variable in size, usually growing from 6 to 18 cm but sometimes as much as 50 cm long, according to Jepson. As with all Polypodium, the underside of the leaves are decorated with the velvety brown spots of fertile, spore-producing sori. The fern blades sprout from underground rhizomes are white, and not licorice flavored
I haven’t seen this fern often–this one was spotted on the Steep Ravine trail on Mt. Tamalpais. Leathery polypody (also known as leather fern or leather leaf fern) can grow in a variety of habitats, including coastal strand, coastal meadows, and redwood forest. According to Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, it’s rarely found far from salt spray.