Christmas Fern

Polystichum acrostichoides Dryopteridaceae

Other names

Dagger Fern, Canker Brake

Growth habit


Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Eastern N. America


A 12" tall clumping evergreen fern.
Light: shade to part sun
Moisture and Soil: to dry soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: Surface sow spores on sterile moist soil mix in a closed takeout container with clear top. Put under light and keep closed. May take 12 months to get past liverwort look-alike stage (gametophyte).

Biocultural value

The Cherokee and Haudenosaunee both used Christmas fern extensively, including as an antirheumatic, emetic, and febrifuge.The Malecite and Micmac both chewed the root as a remedy for hoarseness.

The statements above were sourced from:

Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.BRIT Native American Ethnobotany

Wildlife value

An aphid (Amphorphora ampullata), sucks plant juices from the Christmas fern and other ferns. White tail deer browse sparingly on the mature fronds in winter, while young fronds may be eaten by upland gamebirds like the ruffed grouse and wild turkey.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, Cornell Class of 1938 Native Maple Slope, Comstock Knoll and Rhododendron Collection, Conifer Slope, Coy Glen, Fischer Old-growth Forest, Slaterville 600, McDaniel Meadow, Woods, and Swamp, McLean Bogs, Eames Bog, Purvis Road Wetlands Natural Area, Ringwood Ponds, South Hill Swamp, Tarr-Young Preserve

Source of plant

Bluebird Nursery Inc., Shady Oaks Nursery, Bluemount Nurseries, Crownsville Nursery, Sunny Border Nurseries


Fronds 1'- 2' long, evergreen, arching from a slender, much-branched, multiple-crowned rhizome. Blades are once-pinnate, linear, broadest at the base, bearing sori only in the upper 1/3 of the frond, which often falls off after the sori have been shed.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics

foliage characteristics, winter interest. Many people use the stocking-like shape of this evergreen fern's leaflets to help with identification.