• Polystichum arcostichoides - Christmas Fern


    "Christmas Fern is a rhizome subterranean, decumbent, woody, densely scaly-scruffy evergreen that may grow 2 to 3 feet high in a fountain-like manner. The leaves are known as fronds. The fronds have many leaflets and grow directly from the ground in a clump, so no bark is present. No flowers are produced. The fern produces black spores on the underside of the leaf.  Its fiddleheads emerge silvery in the spring.

    "Not all fronds are fertile.  The fertile fronds are narrower at the tip.  

    "It is best grown in organically rich, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Crown rot problems can occur in poorly drained soils, particularly in the winter.  It can typically be found growing in rich rocky woods, along stream banks, in swamps or thickets.

    "This fern will not spread or naturalize, however its clumps will increase in size over time.

    "It provides winter cover near the ground for songbirds who also use parts and scale-like hairs in nest construction.

    "In mass plantings, it makes an excellent plant to combat soil erosion on slopes." (North Carolina Extension)

    "The preference is light shade, mesic to slightly dry conditions, and soil that is loamy or rocky with abundant leaf litter." (Hilty)

    Faunal Associations:

    "An aphid, Amphorphora ampullata, sucks plant juices from the Christmas Fern and other ferns. During the winter, the evergreen fronds of this fern are eaten sparingly by White-Tailed Deer. In addition, young fronds may be eaten by such upland gamebirds as the Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey. Overall, the value of this fern to wildlife is limited." (Hilty)

    1. "Polystichum acrostichoides in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden" By Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55501873
    2. "Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), West Hartford, VT" by Doug_McGrady is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    North Carolina Extension plant description: Polystichum Acrostichoides (Christmas Dagger, Christmas Dagger Fern, Christmas Fern) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/polystichum-acrostichoides/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.

    John Hilty botany, cultivation, faunal associations: John Hilty, "Christmas Fern", Illinois Wildflowers, the publisher, Copyright 2004-2019. Accessed 2 February 2022

    Botanical illustration: "Polystichum acrostichoides from the second edition of An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions" By Nathaniel Lord Britton & Addison Brown - An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions, 2nd edition, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15657552

    Type: Fern
    Family: Dryopteridaceae
    Native Range: Eastern North America
    Zone: 3 to 9
    Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
    Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
    Bloom Time: Non-flowering
    Bloom Description: Non-flowering
    Sun: Part shade to full shade
    Water: Dry to medium
    Maintenance: Low
    Leaf: Evergreen
    Other: Winter Interest
    Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

    Information and images compiled by Erik N. Vegeto

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