Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)

Called the “Christmas Fern” for it’s hardy, evergreen foliage, P. acrositchoides is a long-lived perennial fern with pinnately compounded fronds. The fiddleheads are a silver color. These plants are tolerant of dry soils, erosion, dense shade, common herbivores, and poor air quality (to an extent). As long as the soil is well-drained, and these are kept out of full sun, Christmas Ferns are a good choice for borders where other plants cannot thrive.

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)
Deciduous: no
Hardiness Zones: 3-9
Height: 30-60 centimeters (12-24 inches) tall
Diameter:30-60 centimeters (12-24 inches) across
Growth Rate: moderate
Age: perennial (“long lived”)
Root System: Consists of a rhizome with fibrous roots underneath.
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Subspecies: none

Tolerates: herbivores (rabbit and deer), drought, dry soils, rocky soils, erosion, heavy shade
Problems (major): crown rot in poorly drained soils
Problems (minor): fern scale insects, mealy bugs, pyralid moth larvae
Poisonous: presumably no

Soil requirements: prefers nutrient rich, neutral to slightly acidic, loamy, well-drained soils
Air requirements: mildly tolerant of urban air conditions/pollution
Watering requirement: moderate to low (dry)
Sun requirement: part-shade to full shade

Fiddleheads present: Yes, silver-colored and scale-like when immature fiddleheads are called crosiers.
Compound fronds: yes, pinnately
Aerial: no
Rosette: yes
Tree Fern: no
Blade length: Lanceolate, dark-green, leathery fronds extend up to 2 feet tall and 4 inches wide.
Rhizome length: not sufficiently researched

Notable characteristics:
Fertile fronds produce up to 40 leaflets with the sori (spores used for reproduction) located mostly in the upper third. The sterile fronds are much larger. Spores are produced typically from June to October. Although these don’t naturalize or spread out extensively, they can form decent sized clumps.

Sometimes used as a border plant or placed where other plants are unable to survive. Does well in dry, shaded, well-drained areas.

Sources used:


Newly emerging fiddleheads (uploaded 29 April 2007, Photo by and (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man))


Several mature, sterile fronds (uploaded 9 September 2006, Photo (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man))

I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s).



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