OHNO: Observatory Hill Native Organisms

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Nice plant of the month: December 2023

The Christmas fern is a perennial, evergreen fern native to the eastern United States. Its common name may refer to the fact that it stays green throughout winter.


Christmas ferns prefer shaded areas, and grow best wooded areas and on the banks of streams. Crown rot can occur if the soil is too soggy, so they are often found on hillsides, where the soil has better drainage.


In the winter, the fronds of the fern tend to lie close to the ground. This helps to hold down leaves and other plant debris, which in turn helps to improve soil quality and prevent erosion. Although few animals eat the Christmas fern, its evergreen fronds can provide cover for ground foraging birds throughout the winter.


The christmas fern is easy to identify by the point at the base of each pinna (leaf). Compared to other ferns in this area, its leaves are large and lack secondary compounding.

Phylum:Tracheophytavascular plants
Family:Dryopteridaceaeshieldfern family
Genus:Polystichumshield ferns
Species:acrostichoidesChristmas fern
Fern Anatomy