HOME

About WNPS
Administration
Calendar
Contact WNPS
History
How to Donate
Membership
Online Store

Activities
Conservation
Ecosystems
Education
Landscaping
Native Plant Lists
Publications
Research
Restoration

Local Chapters
Field Trips
Programs
Plant Sales
Volunteer

Photo Gallery

Priorities
Garry Oak
Invasive Species
Shrub-Steppe

Programs
Growing Wild
Ivy OUT
WNPS Stewards

An Affiliate of

Earthshare of Washington

Home > Landscaping > Native Plants for Western Washington Gardens and Restoration Projects



Gymnocarpium dryopteris

Oak Fern

This species does not produce flowers
Mostly shady Full shade
Wet soil Moist soil


At a Glance: Delicate, deciduous fronds. Usually solitary, but often forms a mat of herbaceous cover in forests.

Height: To 16 inches (40 cm).
Growth Form: Fern.
Stems: Stalks are thin, dark, and wiry.
Leaves: Fronds with up to 20 pairs of leaflets, the ultimate segments round-toothed; shape: twice- to thrice-pinnately compound, broadly triangular, with the two lateral pinnae shorter than the central one and the lowest pinnae noticeably asymmetrical; size: to 40 cm (16 in) tall; color: dark green.
Flowers: None; produces spores in small, circular, sori arranged in two rows on lower leaflets; indusia lacking.
Flowering Period: none.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris
Photo © Starflower Foundation
Click to view larger Click to view larger


Sun/Shade Tolerance Hydrology Elevation Range
full sun > 80%
mostly sunny 60%-80%
partial sun and shade 40%- 60%
mostly shady 60%-80%
full shade > 80%

wet
moist
dry

Wetland Indicator Status:
Mostly found at mid-elevations.

low elevation
mid elevation
sub-alpine
high elevation


Soil Preferences
(data not available)

Habitat Preferences
Aquatic and Wetland:
Ponds or lakes
Shallow pools
Sloughs
Swales or wet ditches
Seasonally inundated areas
Marshes or swamps
Aquatic bed wetlands
Emergent wetlands
Scrub-shrub wetlands
Forested wetlands
Bogs, fens
Seeps, springs
Shorelines and Riparian:
Lake shores
Bog margins
Streams or rivers
Stream or river banks
Riparian corridors
River bars
Floodplains
Bottomlands
Alluvial areas
Saltwater Areas:
In or near saltwater
Mud flats
Tidal areas
Estuaries
Saltmarshes
Brackish water
Seashores
Coastal dunes or beaches
Rocky or Gravelly Areas:
Coastal bluffs
Cliffs
Rocky slopes
Outcrops
Crevices
Glacial outwash
Gullies
Slide areas
Sub-alpine and Alpine:
Heaths
Snow beds
Tundra
Avalanche tracks
Forests and Thickets:
Forests and woods
Open forests
Coniferous forests
Old growth forests
Deciduous forests
Mixed forests
Nurse logs
Forest edges, openings, or clearings
Thickets
Meadows and Fields:
Pastures or fields
Meadows or grassy areas
Mossy areas
Disturbed Areas:
Roadsides
Trailsides
Logged sites
Burned areas
Disturbed sites

Wildlife Value
Berries
Seeds
Nectar for hummingbirds
Nectar for butterflies
Host for insect larvae
Thickets and shelter
Thorny or protective cover

Mammals: Forms dense herbaceous stands useful as a cover for forest wildlife.


Ethnobotanical Uses and Other Facts
Landscape Uses: This species can form an almost continuous carpet over the forest floor on some sites. It is a very attractive fern, and it forms a beautiful, luxuriant forest understory. Small pieces dug in the wild can be easily established in shady garden spots.
Name Info: Gymnocarpium means naked fruit because these plants have no indusia. The name oak fern appears to have resulted from a translation of the species name: Dryopteris is Greek for oak (drys) fern (pteris). This fern does not grow near or on oaks, but oak fern is a former name for Polypodium vulgare, from that species habit of growing on oak branches.


Suggested References



The landscaping and restoration information provided on this page is taken from the Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium. All photographs © Starflower Foundation unless otherwise noted.