Oh, Christmas Fern


Polystichum acrostichoides
Dryopteridaceae (wood fern family)

specimen showing sterile and fertile fronds; pardon the boot!

If you’ve been walking around the woods during this freakishly warm season, you’ve probably seen Christmas fern, a widespread evergreen fern of moist to dry woodlands that’s found all over the eastern part of North America.  It’s a lovely plant for the garden, with glossy dark fronds adding winter interest, and a tidy, clump-forming habit.



young frond in July




Christmas fern stands about two feet tall, and is easily identified (especially in winter). Each pinna has a distinctive upward-pointing lobe near the base, variously described as a thumb, or toe, or ear. (The technical term is auricle, meaning ear-shaped lobe.)

The fertile fronds have a distinctive shape, with the sori-bearing pinna becoming shorter, narrower, and more widely spaced on the upper portion of the fronds:









sori on underside







crozier in July



ps: please refer to my posts about fern terminology and fertile fronds for definitions of some of the jargon

One thought on “Oh, Christmas Fern

  1. Pingback: In Search of Something Green (and Native) | Elizabeth's Wildflower Blog

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