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Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides

Phonetic Spelling
pol-IS-tick-um ak-ros-tik-OY-deez
Description

Christmas Fern is a rhizome subterranean, decumbent, woody, densely scaly-scrufy 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.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Fronds dimorphic
  • Fertile pinnae terminate, reduced in size
  • Pinnae basally auricled
  • stipe chaffy

 

 

Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#shade tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#rabbit resistant#low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#native garden#fire resistant#woodland#native fern#fantz#cover
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#shade tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#rabbit resistant#low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#native garden#fire resistant#woodland#native fern#fantz#cover
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Polystichum
    Species:
    acrostichoides
    Family:
    Polypodiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern Canada to Mexico
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It provides winter cover near the ground. White-tailed deer will browse the plant. Songbirds use the parts and scale-like hairs in nest construction. Attracts Ruffed Grouse.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Nesting
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer. Resistant to fire in the landscape.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Fern
    Native Plant
    Wildflower
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Soft
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Fronds
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Other/more complex
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    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. The Christmas fern has tufted circular clump of stiff, deep green fronds (leaves). The blade is a once-pinnately compound, linear-lanceolate 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. Sterile pinnae are in the middle and base of fronds, are linear-oblong, are basally acutely auriculate, and are minutely spinose-dentate. The pinnae are auricled with marginal bristle teeth and are dimorphic with 20-35 pinnae pairs. The stipe and rachis are scaly and chaffy. 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.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Near Septic
    Riparian
    Slope/Bank
    Small Space
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Fairy Garden
    Native Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire
    Heavy Shade
    Rabbits
    Squirrels