Leaves in winter

Christmas Fern,  Polystichum acrostichoides
Dryopteridaceae or Wood Fern Family

A medium-sized evergreen fern with lustrous green leaves shaped like very long triangles. Leaves upright in the growing season, but lie down in the winter. Leaves are divided into lance-shaped leaflets, not quite opposite each other. Each leaflet is usually toothed and always has a little upward-pointing ear that makes it look like a Christmas stocking. Leaflets at the top of fertile fronds produce spores during the growing season. These fertile leaflets are much smaller than the next lower leaflets, and are more or less covered underneath with red-brown spore-bearing fruitdots.

A woodland native, particularly fond of limy soil, streamsides and rocky places.  Common in the forests of Wildwood, which have all three.

Many ferns have a similar overall shape, but this species can be easily identified by the Christmas-stocking leaflets. Ebony spleenwort has similar "ears" on the leaflets, but the sporecases are localized to the centers of the leaflets, and the leaflets are shorter. It could be confused with marginal wood fern, which is also evergreen, but this species lacks the "ears," and has only marginal fruit dots.

More information

Leaves close up

Fertile fronds 

Fruit dots on fertile leaves

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