Simply The Best Natives-Lady Fern


“Plants cry their gratitude for the sun in green joy.”  ~Terri Guillements


I love adding texture to my gardens, especially the shade garden.  And I find no better plant for adding texture than native ferns.  I added some new native ferns a couple of years ago, and this Lady Fern was one of them.  Athyrium filix-DSCN3942femina, also known as Common lady fern or Subarctic lady fern, is part of the Wood Fern Family (Dryopteridaceae).

Lady Fern is perennial, and will fade in winter to reappear again in spring.  It can grow 2-3 feet tall and wide given room (which I need to do).  The light green, lacy fronds can grow 2 feet long, and up to 9 inches wide.

Its common name, Lady Fern, is said to refer to its graceful, feminine appearance.  Its genus name comes from the Greek athyros (doorless) which is said to refer to the slowly opening spore covers.  The rest of its name comes from the Latin filix meaning fern and femina meaning woman.

As I profile this wonderful native fern, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for amandaher Wildflower Wednesday meme, and Christina@Creating my own garden of the Hesperides and her meme Gardens Bloggers Foliage Day.  And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  Check out her wonderful 2015 Spring Catalog to see which natives Ellen is selling this year.




Growing Conditions

DSCN3641Lady Ferns are such a delicate looking fern, and I love the contrast of the light green fronds with the red stems.  Even though this is a hardy, strong fern you can break the fronds easily as they can be brittle.  These ferns grow from a central base and will spread out and grow in a group circling the original fern. 

These native ferns can be found throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere.  Look in any moist, shady woodland, or in wet meadows, swamps, marshes, shorelines and rock crevices.

Lady Ferns prefer high humidity and protection from the wind.  They have few diseases and pests, and do best in dappled, moist shade.  They will handle more sun if the soil is water retentive.  I am thinking of DSCN3907planting more of these on the edge of my boggy area that is sunny and wet.  But I need to be careful as this fern can rot from too much water.

You will need to water these regularly once you plant them until they are established, and then they will tolerate some drought conditions. 

I have not fertilized my ferns, but doing so once in spring can help them grow larger and lush.  But be careful not to over fertilize any fern or you will weaken them.

Lady Ferns are can be propagated from spores that grow on the back of the leaves. But it is easier to divide the fern in spring to spread its wealth. 




Benefits to Wildlife 

DSCN3814There is limited information about the wildlife benefits of this fern.  It is a major food source for Grizzly bears, and elk and deer will also browse this fern although I have not seen our deer eating ferns.  Perhaps because they prefer the hosta growing nearby. 

There are some insects that like to feed on this fern too.  These include aphids, and the larvae of some moths who feed on the spores.

When the fern gets larger, it can provide cover for smaller wildlife like frogs, toads and mice.   






DSCN8218Lady Ferns have long been popular to grow indoors, either potted or hanging, and were a favorite fern during Victorian times.  Of course it is a great plant for any moist shade garden outdoors.

This fern’s young fronds are edible once cooked (poisonous when raw), but always use caution when eating any wild plant from outside.  




Folklore and Tales 

Native Americans found many uses for this fern.  They used them for drying food like berries or covering food in baskets.  Eels and fish were cleaned with the fronds, and the fronds separated food being DSCN3937steamed in pits.

Native tribes also cooked, baked or ate the fiddleheads and young fronds raw.  They even roasted and ate the rhizomes.

Tea was made from the leaves or roots and treated many gynecological issues in childbirth and cancer of the womb.  Roots were also dried and ground to help heal wounds.  

Lady Ferns have been used since the 1st century AD to get rid of worms found in the human body.  

According to some folklore, finding this fern in the wild meant that water was nearby.
In The Language of Flowers, ferns can represent Sincerity, Magic, Fascination, Confidence and Shelter.



lady fern collage


Do you grow any native ferns?  Do you have a favorite fern?



Next up on the blog:  

Monday, I will have another vase with an update on my Veg Garden. 

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week. 

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