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Polystichum acrostichoides

Common Name(s):
Christmas fern
Ferns, Native Plants

Polystichum acrostichoides, commonly called Christmas fern, is a native fern which occurs in both dry and moist wooded slopes, moist banks and ravines. Typically grows in a fountain-like clump to 2' tall and features leathery, lance-shaped, evergreen (green at Christmas time as the common name suggests) fronds. Stocking shape of the pinnae also suggests Christmas. Crosiers (young fiddleheads) in spring are silvery and scaled. Sori appear on the undersides of the pinnae only at the ends (last 1/3) of the fronds. Evergreen fronds provide good winter interest for the landscape.

It is best grown in organically rich, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Consider planting rhizome at an angle to help combat potential crown rot problems which can occur in poorly drained soils. Although rhizomatous, this fern will not spread or naturalize, however, clumps will increase in size over time.


Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:  Winter                  

Wildlife Value:   This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer.  It provides winter cover near the ground.  Songbirds use parts and scale-like hairs in nest construction.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Crown rot in poorly drained soils can be a problem, particularly in winter.


12-36 in.
The Christmas fern has tufted circular clump of stiff, deep green fronds (leaves). The blade is a once-pinnate, lance-shaped broadest at the base. Its fertile fronds are taller, more rigid, more erect, constricted at the tip and die in the winter. Its sterile fronds are smaller and less erect and remain evergreen. The pinnae are auricled with marginal bristle teeth. The stipe and rachis are scaly. Its short stipe is green but brown at base. Its yellow spored sori occur only on terminal one-third of the frond. Its fronds have many leaflets and grow directly from the ground in a clump, so no bark is present. This fern produces black spores on the underside of the leaf.
Part shade to full shade
deer resistant, evergreen

NCCES plant id: 219

Polystichum acrostichoides Polystichum acrostichoides
Photo by Suzanned Cadwell, CC BY-NC-2.0
Polystichum acrostichoides P. acrostichoides frond detail
Photo by Cranbrook Science, CC BY - 2.0
Polystichum acrostichoides P. acrostichoides with fiddleheads
Photo by Suzanne Cadwell, CC BY-NC-2.0