COMMON NAME: Christmas Fern, Christmas Shield Fern
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Polystichum acrostichoides – From the Greek poly meaning
many and stichos for rows in reference to numerous regular rows of fruitdots.
REPRODUCTION: Spores form from June to September.
SIZE: Medium-sized, coarse fern with deep evergreen, highly polished fronds, 1 to
2.5 feet long and 2 to 4 inches wide. Fertile fronds are longer and sterile fronds
shorter and broader.
BEHAVIOR: Clumps remain year after year. Not a strong spreader. Fronds remain
green all winter, hence the common name.
SITE REQUIREMENTS: One of the most adaptable ferns. Hardy, easy to grow in
moist, humus-rich soil or on dry rocky slopes and crevices in open shade. Tolerates
some sunlight. Can be planted on banks to help prevent soil erosion as the older,
prostate leaves form soil-retaining mats.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This fern is immune to disease and pests, although deer will
eat it. In spring, the tightly wound silvery-scaled crosiers (fiddleheads) rise amid
the prostate but still dark-green leathery leaves of last year. The leaflets resemble a
Christmas stocking and were used by early settlers for holiday decorations.
NATURAL RANGE: Most of the eastern part of the US.
SUGGESTED CARE: Likes a light, leafy winter cover. Spread by dividing crowns
(clumps) in spring.
COMPANION PLANTS: Violets, hepatica, spring beauty, trout lily, columbine,
trillium, wild geranium, bloodroot, Jack-in-the-pulpit.