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Polystichum arcostichoides – Christmas Fern

Polystichum arcostichoides – Christmas Fern

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


Additional information


6-Pack, 9-Pack, Single

Common Name





Native Range

Eastern North America


3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Height Range (ft.)

1.00 to 2.00

Spread (ft.)

1.00 to 2.00

Bloom Time


Bloom Description



Full Shade, Part Shade


Dry, Medium



Suggested Use


Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Erosion, Heavy Shade, Rabbits, Shallow-Rocky Soil




Winter Interest

Product Description

“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.” (North Carolina Extension)

1473 original - Polystichum arcostichoides - Christmas Fern
“The preference is light shade, mesic to slightly dry conditions, and soil that is loamy or rocky with abundant leaf litter.” (Hilty)

Faunal Associations:

“An aphid, Amphorphora ampullata, sucks plant juices from the Christmas Fern and other ferns. During the winter, the evergreen fronds of this fern are eaten sparingly by White-Tailed Deer. In addition, young fronds may be eaten by such upland gamebirds as the Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey. Overall, the value of this fern to wildlife is limited.” (Hilty)

  1. Polystichum acrostichoides in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden” By Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
  2. “Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), West Hartford, VT” by Doug_McGrady is licensed under CC BY 2.0
North Carolina Extension plant description: Polystichum Acrostichoides (Christmas Dagger, Christmas Dagger Fern, Christmas Fern) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.
John Hilty botany, cultivation, faunal associations: John Hilty, “Christmas Fern“, Illinois Wildflowers, the publisher, Copyright 2004-2019. Accessed 2 February 2022
Botanical illustration: “Polystichum acrostichoides from the second edition of An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions” By Nathaniel Lord Britton & Addison Brown – An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions, 2nd edition, Public Domain,
Type: Fern
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Information and images compiled by Erik N. Vegeto

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