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The Christmas Fern - Polystichum acrostichoides

Posted on December 22, 2015 at 12:05 AM

The Christmas Fern - Polystichum acrostichoides - is often associated with the Christmas season and is of the most common ferns found in the Eastern United States.  Though it is not written in stone how it got it's name, some of the guesses are: the leaflets are described to be shaped like a sleigh or stocking,  it is one of the few woodland plants still green during the month of December/Christmas season, and it is often used in holiday decorating as greenery or in wreath construction.  

Image Citation: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,

It is found growing in a wide variety of locations and habitats, from shaded hillsides, to rocky cliffs, to wooded stream beds.  The native range is generally the Eastern portions of North America from Nova Scotia in the North, West through Minnesota, all the way down South from Texas in the West to Florida in the East.  Generally when found in the wild this fern grows in a fountain like clump that is made up of various size fronds. The clumps often grow in large colonial masses and may provide complete groundcover and even erosion protection.  The Christmas Fern resembles the Pacific Coast Sword Fern.  The Christmas Fern, is also popular as an ornamental plant for gardens and natural landscaping, because it is easy to grow and can be used in many settings and soils, even shaded areas under large trees where other plants may not survive/thrive. They are quite hardy, require little care, adapt to most growing conditions, and are also resistant to pests and diseases.  If you are looking for a very low maintenance plant that will add some green in your garden over the winter, then the Christmas Fern is definitely a good choice.

Image Citation:  James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,

When young the crosiers (fronds) are curled and a silvery green in color before opening to reveal the mature fronds as the season progresses.  When the fronds first open they will still have a slightly curled appearance which will straighten with time.  Once completely open the evergreen fronds average 12- 32 inches long and are made up multiple green leaflets growing in a odd/alternate pinnate shape.  The number of leaflets on each frond greatly varies by the length of the induvidual frond.  

Image Citation:  David Stephens,

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Categories: Shrubs, Ferns and Flowers , Cool Tree Facts

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