Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Winter Ferns

#1 Christmas Fern

The first fern highlighted for our Winter Fern series this season is Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). This is a common fern for our area, and probably most people know it on sight. But as I write this on Christmas Eve, it is the obvious choice for today.

According to Chaddee (Northeast Ferns), it was used by early New England settlers for Christmas decorations. For those who have been on our walks, you will remember two ways to look at the pinnae or leaflets to identify it as Christmas Fern. The leaflets can look like a Christmas stocking or Santa's sleigh, depending on the direction you hold the leaflet. You can see these shapes on the middle fronds in the photo.

Christmas ferns grow in partial to full shade, so are common in the understory of many of our forests. We commonly call them "evergreen" but they are actually "semi-evergreen" since although they retain green leaves through the winter, they are replaced in the spring with fresh new leaves which develop from beautiful fiddleheads.

WIshing those who celebrate Christmas a Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all.