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Polystichum acrostichoides

Christmas fern

Plant Details

Common Name: Christmas fern
Family: Dryopteridaceae (the shield fern family—known colloquially as the wood fern family)
Mature Height: 6" - 2'
Sun Requirement: Part shade to shade
Moisture Requirement: Dry - medium, Medium - moist
Flower Color: None
Bloom Time: Mid summer (July - August)
Seed Collection Date: Mid summer (July - August), Late summer (August - September)

Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern

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Polystichum is Greek from the words for many and in a row (in reference to spore cases being in rows); acrostichoides is Latin (from ancient Greek) meaning resembling a leather fern.

Native Habitat

Organically rich, acidic soils that are well-drained.

Garden Uses

This species will thrive in dryish or moist soils in woodland gardens, in shade gardens, shady areas of borders, and in wild or native plant gardens. May also be planted in shady areas along walls or foundations. A good plant for massing on slopes (including dryish, rocky ones) to help combat soil erosion. Evergreen fronds provide good winter interest for the landscape.


The Christmas fern is native to the Eastern United States and thrives in organically rich, acidic, dry to moist well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. It grows in a fountain-like clump to about 2’ tall. It has evergreen fronds, as the common name suggests). The stocking shape of the pinnae (primary division of a frond) also suggests Christmas. It is a clumping fern and will increase in size yet not spread or colonize the way some ferns do.

Leaves and Stems

Christmas ferns have leathery, lance-shaped fronds (the leaflike part of a fern) that are glossy when young. The crosiers (the curled top of a young fern called a fiddleheads) in spring are silvery and scaled.


All ferns pre-date flowering plants; they reproduce by spores.


Sori (a cluster of spore-producing receptacles on the underside of a fern frond) appear on the undersides of the pinnae (primary division of a frond) at the ends (last 1/3) of the fronds.

Animal Associates

Christmas ferns attract ruffed grouse, provide cover for wildlife, and are deer and rabbit resistant.


Propagate by root division or by spores.

Ethnobotanical Uses

None found.

Garden Location

Entry Garden, Performance Hall Garden, Staff Entry Garden (see garden map)


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Missouri Botanical Garden

WordSense Dictionary


Wild Seed Project

Plant Profile by Kathy Kling