Christmas fern

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,

Updated: March 6, 2023

About Christmas fern

Polystichum acrostichoides
Perennial Fern
Dryopteridaceae Family

Maryland Distribution: woodlands, stream banks and other shady slopes throughout the state

Height: 8-16 inches

Blooms: Inconspicuous fertile pinnules occur at the tips of the fronds in late spring.

Sun: shade

Soil: Moist to dry soils, sand to clay, pH of neutral to acid. Particularly fond of areas where they can wick moisture up from lower ground.

Garden Use & Maintenance: This evergreen, clump forming fern makes an excellent specimen, border plant. Dark green, slightly shiny fronds contrast nicely with the foliage of many other shade loving perennials. Heavy snow will flatten fronds, but they remain evergreen. Some gardeners trim back the previous year's foliage when the new fiddles appear, but this is unnecessary in all but the most formal settings and reduces the plant's capacity to photosynthesize.

Wildlife: At one time considered deer proof, overpopulated herds are now observed grazing Christmas ferns in garden and natural settings where there is nothing else left to eat. Wood ferns, ostrich ferns, and sensitive ferns are some other native species that are resistant to deer browsing.

Additional resource

Publications for Gardeners | Maryland Native Plant Society

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