With more than 80 fern and fern allies species known it West Virginia, there are plenty to find and unique habitats to explore where they are found. Ferns are distinguished from other plants by not having flowers nor seeds, and different from other spore-producing cryptogams by being vascular and having two (alternate) free living generations: a sporophyte (spore-producing; often branching) and a gametophyte (gamete-producing). The sporophyte generation is dominant and what we’re most familiar with, having its own set of complex leaves (megaphylls; more often known as a frond), stems (rhizomes), and roots. The opposite is true of bryophytes where the gametophyte is the predominant life stage we see. The gametophyte generation develops the sex organs which produces gametes, and in ferns known as the prothallus.
To learn more about fern structure and reproduction, the USFS has a simple introduction.
The Brooks Bird Club has a WV species checklist available for download and printing.
While not WV, covers many of the same ferns and fern allies. I actually was a student of Dr. Lord’s class during my Masters and was assigned the Adder’s Tongue Family (Ophioglassales); didn’t even know they were related to ferns before then!
Thomas R. Lord and Holly J. Travis. 2006. The Ferns and Fern Allies of Pennsylvania. Pemberton, NJ: Pinelands Press.
A Northeast focused guide which if you’re familiar with Peterson Field Guides already, you know they’re worth adding to your (large) collection of other field guides.
Cobb, B., and E. Farnsworth, and C. Lowe for The New England Wild Flower Society. 2005. Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America. 2nd Ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Out of print, but WVU Extension Service used to make a small WV fern ID guide. May be worth contacting them to see what other resources are available.
Norma Jean Venable. Out of Print. Ferns: Introduction to Ferns of West Virginia. West Virginia University Extension Service.