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

Native Ferns

Adiantum aleuticum
Maidenhair Fern, Aleutian maidenhair, western maidenhair, serpentine maidenhair
Small to medium-sized delicate, deciduous fern with a fan-shaped arrangement of five to seven fingerlike branchlets each bearing many toothed leaflets.
Height: 6-43 inches (15-110 cm).
Leaves are deciduous and palmately branched to form an open umbrella with fan-shaped segments that are smooth and flat on the lower margin and cleft into ragged rectangular lobes on the upper margin (Pojar, 425); size: 10-40 cm (4-16 in) across; color: light to bright green. Spore-bearing and sterile leaves are similar in appearance. Leaves are resistant to wetting and shed rain. Leaves deciduous.
Athyrium filix-femina
Lady Fern
Tall, delicate, light-green fronds from a basal cluster.
Height: Grows 3-6 feet (2 meters) tall.
Each lance-shaped leaf consists of 20-40 pairs of leaflets; color: light to dark green. Leaves deciduous.
Blechnum spicant
Deer Fern
Dark green fern leaves grow in tufts from short, stout rhizomes.
Height: Up to 40 inches (1 meter) tall.
Dark green, once pinnately divided, the divisions have smooth margins. Leaves evergreen.
Dryopteris expansa
Spiny Wood Fern
A semi-evergreen fern of woodland areas with triangular fronds from a stout rhizome.
Height: To 3 feet (1 meter) tall.
3 times pinnate; leaflets 5-20 pairs, the lowest pair broadly triangular and asymmetrical. Tapering toward tip, bottom half of stem bare; shape: blades broadly triangular; size: 20-50 cm (1 m) long; color: green. Leaves deciduous.
Equisetum arvense
Field Horsetail
Succulent, hollow, jointed stems with whorls of branches.
Height: 6-24 inches (15-60 cm).
Reduced to tiny scales that are fused into 6-14 sheaths at stem nodes. Dense whorls of branches (often mistaken for leaves) form at stem nodes; branches are 1-1.5 mm thick, sometimes branch again. Leaves evergreen.
Equisetum telmatiea
Giant Horsetail
More robust and larger than common horsetail. Sheaths around its sterile stems have 14-18 teeth.
Height: 3-7.5 (10) feet tall; 1-2.3 (3) meters tall.
Reduced to tiny scales that are fused into 20-30 sheaths at stem nodes. Dense whorls of branches (often mistaken for leaves) form at stem nodes; shape: sterile stems branched, hollow; size: sheaths to 2.5 cm (1 in) long; color: green. Leaves deciduous.
Gymnocarpium dryopteris
Oak Fern
Delicate, deciduous fronds. Usually solitary, but often forms a mat of herbaceous cover in forests.
Height: To 16 inches (40 cm).
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. Leaves deciduous.
Polystichum munitum
Sword Fern
A large attractive fern with erect evergreen fronds forming a circular crown.
Height: 3-5 feet (1-1.5 meters).
Fronds are pinnately divided once with sharply toothed alternating leaflets. Each leaflet has a hilt-like lobe at base representing the hilt of a sword. Overall shape of frond is lanceolate; size: 90-150 cm (3-5 ft) long by 20-30 cm (8-12 in) across; color: dark green. Leaves evergreen.
Pteridium aquilinum
Bracken Fern
Rhizomous perennial fern with large, much-divided solitary fronds,
Height: Usually 3-6 feet (1-2 meters) tall, sometimes taller.
Blades triangular, 2-3 times pinnate, hairy; stalk stout, longer than the blades; leaflets 10 or more pairs, upper ones reduces and lance-shaped, ultimate segments round toothed, margins rolled. Leaves deciduous.

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