50+ Types of Ferns (Indoor and Outdoor Species of Ferns) - PlantSnap

50+ Types of Ferns (Indoor and Outdoor Species of Ferns)

by | Nov 11, 2020

By definition, a fern is a vascular, flowerless plant with leafy fronds that produce spores for reproduction. Whether they add depth and dark green accents to your garden, spruce up a terrarium, or just remind you of scenes from Jurassic Park, ferns are truly remarkable plants.

Life As a Fern Plant


Ferns are some of the most ancient plants on planet Earth. Dating back over
350 million years ago, ferns were some of the first vascular plants. In fact, only club mosses are older. However, the ferns around today aren’t quite that prehistoric.

A Long History


Though most of the first groups of ferns have gone extinct, the ferns we know and love today began evolving around 70 million years ago – still quite impressive. These plants radiated during the Devonian period into the 10,000 fern species on earth today. They were even used as
herbal medicine by ancient humans! Here, we’ll dive a bit deeper into some of the jargon and details of fern life before moving on to our master list of 50+ species of ferns.

Vascular Plants


The term
‘vascular’ refers to the connective tissue that allows a plant to transfer food and water throughout its systems. In other words, the evolution of vascular plants allowed for plants to live out of the water. The first vascular plants began developing roots, stems, and leaves. Ferns are some examples we have of the first vascular plants to make their way to land. Signs of prehistoric life are still present in modern ferns, including their reproductive cycle.

Fern Reproduction

The life cycle of a fern has a few distinct steps. Ferns evolved before plants had flowers or seeds, so how do they reproduce? Ferns actually have a multigenerational reproductive process! 

First, the spores are released from an adult fern. The spores often need to land in a moist area which starts the gametophyte generation. During this time, the fern looks like a flat little heart. The male and female reproductive structures release the gametes, and fertilization occurs. Now the fertilized egg develops into a baby fern, which begins to grow upward into the fiddlehead. In a beautiful unfurling, the fiddlehead uncurls to reveal the fern or the sporophyte generation. After growing spores, they are released and the process begins again!

Bulbets and fernlets are the exceptions to this cycle. Forms of asexual reproduction, these are ways that some ferns will produce clones of themselves that plant themselves and grow into individual plants.

fern life cycle

Fern Life Cycle, Fiddlehead example

 

Fern Jargon


Before we start our master list of ferns, here’s a list of some helpful definitions that we’ll use in the descriptions of each fern species.

 

Leaf Descriptors

 

  • Frond – the leaf of a fern
  • Broadleaf – describes ferns with fronds that are undivided or simple
  • Compound Leaf – fronds are made up of many leaflets expanded from a stem or central point. This is the more common 
  • Pinnate – the leaflets of the frond are arranged on either side of the stem
  • Twice cut – the leaflets themselves are divided and appear to be mini ferns
  • Pinnae – each individual leaflet

 

Habitat Descriptors

 

  • Terrestrial – grows on land with roots in the soil
  • Aquatic – grows fully in water
  • Epiphytic – grows on tree branches in the air without the need for soil or water

50+ Different Types of Ferns


Let’s jump into our 50+ different fern types. Read along to find the best fern for your home or garden.

Southern Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris)


Identification Characteristics


Notable for its delicate leaf shape, the
southern maidenhair fern grows in tropical and temperate regions throughout the world. It’s a great choice for your backyard garden as it is a very resilient plant. The fern grows in a clumping, arching pattern, and mostly spreads through rhizomes.

Leaf Shape

The fronds alternate their way up the fern’s stem. Each individual leaf is fan-shaped with a few lobes, reminiscent of a paw print.

Color

Light green

Size


10-24 inches tall

Growing Tips


The Southern Maidenhair fern is a great choice for both
indoor and outdoor settings. They thrive in shade gardens with alkaline soil.

Giant Fern (Angiopteris evecta)


Identification Characteristics


Native to countries in Micronesia, Polynesia, Australia, and New Guinea, the giant fern is truly a tropical giant. The plant is massive, with giant fronds that grow from a large stem.

Leaf Shape


The fronds look, for the most part, like the quintessential fern leaf, and are twice-cut pinnately compound. 

Color


Bright green with darker purplish, brown stems

Size


With fronds almost 20 feet long and 8 feet across, this fern takes up space! The trunk can grow up to three feet in diameter. 

Growing Tips


While this plant is an asset in its native range, it has proved to be quite invasive where it is introduced. Because of this, the
cultivation of giant fern is discouraged to prevent the disruption of native habitats. However, it can be used as an ornamental fern.

Bird’s-nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)


Identification Characteristics


If you’re in search of a hearty houseplant, look no further than Bird’-nest fern. In their natural habitats, they are epiphytic and grow in the canopy of the rainforest. The fronds extend from a central point, like rays from the sun. This center bowl is the plant’s secret hack, trapping decaying matter that will nourish the plant.

Leaf Shape


A broadleaf fern, the fronds are simple and extend from the center in long blades. 

Color


Bright green

Size


The fern can be
3-5 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. Each individual frond can grow to be five feet long and eight inches wide!

Growing Tips 


Bird’s-nest fern needs a
well-draining potting mixture, indirect light, and high humidity. Being a tropical epiphyte, don’t be shy with a mister!

 

Basket Fern (Drynaria rigidula)


Identification Characteristics


The entire genus of epiphytic basket ferns all have a similar growth pattern. Some fronds are used as the sporophyte generation to support reproduction. These are large and green! The other fronds are the “sterile nest fronds,” and are small and brown. They form a basket around the base of the fern that serves to collect debris to provide the plant with nutrients.

Leaf Shape


Pinnately compound

Color


Medium green

Size


3-4 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


This fern likes
filtered light and well-draining soil. It makes a great houseplant!

Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)


Identification Characteristics


Most commonly found in Europe, Hart’s-tongue fern is an evergreen plant. It’s named for its
resemblance to a deer’s tongue. It grows in clumps.

Leaf Shape


Simple broadleaves, tapering to a point

Color


Bright green

Size


Fronds are 12-18 inches long

Growing Tips  


Likes well-draining soil with medium moisture. Can be grown
outside in partial shade or direct sunlight.

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)


Identification Characteristics


Loving rich mesic forests everywhere, you can find lady fern around the world. Its scientific name ‘filix-femina’ literally translates to lady fern. The fronds are very lacey and taper to a point.

Leaf Shape


The fronds are compound and cut two or three times, to give them a very lacey appearance.

Color


Light green

Size


About
2  feet tall and 2-3 feet wide

Growing Tips  


With its naturally wide distribution, this is a great addition to your gardens anywhere. Lady fern proves a relatively easy fern to propagate, provided it has enough
moisture. It will spread quickly, so be ready for a yard full of ferns.

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern

 

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum)


Identification Characteristics


A showy fern, Japanese painted fern is native to Eastern Asia but propagated around the world. 

Leaf Shape


The fronds are triangular and twice cut.

Color


The leaves look somewhat purplish or burgundy, and like they’ve been frosted with silver or gold. The stem is easily identifiable as it is a reddish color.

Size


Between
one and two feet in diameter.

Growing Tips 


A great choice for your backyard, Japanese painted fern is both easy to grow and it won’t take over. To encourage its brightest colors, plant in a more
shaded area as the sun will bleach the leaves. Because it won’t grow too big, it also makes a great house plant!

 

Brazilian Tree Fern (Blechnum brasiliense)


Identification Characteristics


Huge fronds tumble out from the center of the clump. This is on the smaller side of tree ferns, making it more manageable as a houseplant.

Leaf Shape


Pinnately compound

Color


Bright green; new growth fronds are bright red!

Size


3-5 feet tall

Growing Tips 


These plants make a great addition to a greenhouse or indoor pot. Though they are evergreen, they are
not frost-tolerant. These ferns like loamy soil with high humidity.

 

Silver Lady Fern (Blechnum gibbum)


Identification Characteristics


A hardy fern that grows in the
Pacific Islands, Silver Lady Fern is a popular houseplant. Fronds extend from a black scaly trunk.

Leaf Shape


Pinnately compound. Pinnae arc into points.

Color


Bright green

Size


3-4 feet tall

Growing Tips  


Likes bright indirect light, high humidity, and warmer temperatures.

 

Golden Zebra Fern (Coniogramme emeiensis)


Identification Characteristics


A slowly spreading plant, this is a true stunner! Delicate patterns on the fronds make for a stunning groundcover or houseplant.

Leaf Shape


Pinnae are stretched out hearts with pointed ends and rounded bases.

Color


Dark green with light green or yellow bands

Size

2 feet tall with 4 foot long fronds that grow somewhat horizontally

Growing Tips


This evergreen fern likes
partial shade and regular moisture.

Tasmanian Cup Fern (Cyathea arborea)


Identification Characteristics


An evergreen tree fern, this is one of the
world’s largest ferns! The fronds grow at the top of the trunk. This fern is commonly used to support orchids!

Leaf Shape


Twice-cut pinnately compound

Color


Light green fronds with a dark trunk

Size


Up to
40 feet tall, each frond can be 10 feet long

Growing Tips  


Rarely cultivated. In its native range, it grows in
open forests and along roadsides.

Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi)


Identification Characteristics


Also known by the scientific name,
Sphaeropteris cooperi, this fern is so large, it more closely resembles a palm tree. The trunk itself can be a foot in diameter, so this easily falls into the category of tree fern. 

Leaf Shape


The twice-cut fronds give this fern a large and lacey appearance 

Color


Medium to light green

Size


15-30 feet tall

Growing Tips 


This tree fern gives a tropical feel to any landscape. They grow best in areas with
warm weather and high humidity (such as Florida). It will love to grow in a shaded garden with well-draining soil and is, overall, relatively low-maintenance.

 

Silver Tree Fern (Cyathea dealbata)


Identification Characteristics


Another star in the tree fern group, this plant’s silvery fronds were made
famous by the New Zealand rugby team. However, these silvery colors only show up on mature plants. Until they are at least one year old, the fronds appear greener. With a thicker trunk, this fern can also withstand colder temperatures than other tree fern species.

Leaf Shape


Bipinnately compound fronds, tapering to a narrow end

Color


Silvery green

Size


Upwards of
30 feet tall

Growing Tips  


This showy fern can brighten a landscape that prefers
humus-rich soil and lots of moisture. It does best with indirect light and shelter from the wind.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

 

Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Davallia solida var. fejeensis)


Identification Characteristics


An epiphytic fern, this plant couple of unique identifiers. Most notably are the furry rhizomes that grow at the base of the fronds. Giving the fern its adorable name, these will pour over the side of the pot.

Leaf Shape


Multi-pinnate fronds with rounded pinnae

Color


Medium green

Size


Fronds are between
18-24 inches long.

Growing Tips  


Rabbit’s foot fern makes an excellent houseplant. Keep it in a
pot or hanging basket with well-draining soil and occasional misting.

 

Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)


Identification Characteristics


Notable as one of the few fragrant ferns on this list, this plant gives off a smell of freshly mown hay when brushed. Common in New England, this is a deciduous fern that turns yellow in the fall.

Leaf Shape


Triangular fronds are multi-pinnate and have a delicate, lacey appearance.

Color


Yellow-green

Size


1.5-2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide

Growing Tips 


Hay-scented ferns enjoy partial to full shade and moist, loose, rich soil. Best to plant in early spring.

 

Tasmanian Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica)


Identification Characteristics


Also called soft tree fern, this evergreen is native to Tasmania that grows to enormous sizes in the wild and can be cultivated for landscape use. 

Leaf Shape


Fronds are tri-pinnate with dramatic divisions. 

Color


Bright green

Size

20-30 feet tall with 10 foot long fronds.

Growing Tips  


Young plants can be grown in containers, and older trees make a great choice for a more temperate landscape where they can be moved outside in the summer. They prefer
partial sun with loose soil.

Crested Buckler Fern (Dryopteris cristata)


Identification Characteristics


Native to New England’s wetland habitats, this fern creeps along the ground. 

Leaf Shape


Bipinnately compound fronds have pinnae that come to large rounded tips.

Color


Leathery green leaves

Size


1-3 feet tall

Growing Tips


Easy to grow in sun or shade. Because it natively lives in wetland ecosystems, the
soil does need to be kept moist. Makes a great choice for a rain garden!

 

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)


Identification Characteristics


This arching plant is also known as the Japanese shield fern and is a great choice for a groundcover in a shade garden or wooded area.

Leaf Shape


Triangular bipinnate fronds

Color


Glossy green (immature fronds are orange to red)

Size

1.5-2.5 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips


Easy to grow in a backyard! This plant likes slightly acidic soils that are kept loose and moist. Like most ferns, they don’t do well in the wind, so keep them in a
wind-protected area with partial to full shade

 

Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)


Identification Characteristics


This evergreen fern is native to North America. It grows in a vase-shaped clump and does not spread easily, making for a great ornamental piece.

Leaf Shape


Bi-pinnately compound with opposite pinnae 

Color


Gray-green

Size


1.5-2 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


Like most ferns,
partial shade, lots of moisture, and loose rich soil will make a happy marginal wood fern.

Alpine Wood Fern

Alpine Wood Fern

 


Alpine Wood Fern (
Dryopteris Wallichiana)


Identification Characteristics


This
award-winning fern is certainly eye-catching. It looks like the quintessential fern is almost every way. Fiddleheads unfurl to reveal neat pinnae taper to a delicate point. Easy to grow, you can have upwards of 50 fronds in just a few years. The perfect statement piece.

Leaf Shape


Triangular, bi-pinnately compound

Color


Rich green (immature ferns are light yellow)

Size


3-5 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


This fern does best in
partial to full shade in moist, well-draining soil. However, it can be drought-tolerant once established.

 

Siebold’s Wood Fern (Dryopteris sieboldii)


Identification Characteristics


Despite the same genus, this fern is distinct from its fellow wood ferns. Not feathery in the slightest, it’s leathery fronds look more like a tongue fern. It will slowly spread in woodlands with dappled light.

Leaf Shape


Simple, broad pinnae come to a point

Color


Blue-green

Size


18-30 inches tall

Growing Tips  


This fern enjoys the
heat and is a drought-tolerant species.

 

Horsetail Fern (Equisetum arvense)

Identification Characteristics


A living fossil, the horsetail fern is the last remaining genus in the class Equisetopsida, and they have not evolved much since the Paleozoic era. They don’t look much like ferns either! More resembling grasses or reeds, they have unbranching hollow tubes. 

Leaf Shape


Green stems have brown needle-like appendages.

Color


Green with brown stems

Size

10-24 inches tall

Growing Tips  


Easy to grow in the right conditions, horsetail fern is a
great choice for a backyard pond or aquascape.

Heart Fern (Hemionitis arifolia)


Identification Characteristics


Native to Asia, this epiphyte has been used for its medicinal properties. Its name, however, is derived from its unique shaped leaves (especially for a fern!). Heart fern loves a tropical environment and is a popular choice for terrariums and vivariums.

Leaf Shape


Simple heart-shaped leaves

Color


Shiny and dark green

Size


Fronds are
2-4 inches long, 6-10 inches tall

Growing Tips   


Since heart fern stays small and loves water, it makes a
great choice for a terrarium. It will be a happy houseplant in general, so find any small pot for this forest friend. Be sure to keep this plant moist!

 

Water Clover Fern (Marsilea crenata)


Identification Characteristics


This is a small aquatic fern that comes from Asia. It’s a carpeting fern, meaning it will spread out and doesn’t grow very tall. It natively grows alongside rice paddies and is popular as aquarium decor.

Leaf Shape


Simple, ovate pinnae in bundles that resemble clover

Color


Medium green

Size


Fronds are rarely wider than 1 cm

Growing Tips  


A relatively hardy plant, water clover fern can tolerate a varied amount of light. So whatever you have the aquarium set to should work.

 

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)


Identification Characteristics


With fronds that look like ostrich tail feathers, you can expect a delicate appearance to this fern. Native to areas across the northern hemisphere, this plant makes a great addition to a shade garden.

Leaf Shape


Multi-pinnate fronds 

Color


Bright green

Size

3-6 feet tall and 5-8 feet wide

Growing Tips  


Ostrich fern needs
regular moisture and a more shaded environment. Make sure to keep it in a protected area as it does not like the wind.

Kangaroo fern

Kangaroo Fern

 

Kangaroo Fern (Microsorum pustulatum)


Identification Characteristics


Named for its resemblance to a Kangaroo’s paw, this epiphytic fern is fittingly native to Australia. The fronds have a leathery texture and a shiny appearance.

Leaf Shape


Broadleaf 

Color


Bright green with dark green veins

Size


Up to
50 inches tall

Growing Tips  


A popular choice for terrariums, the Kangaroo fern likes
indirect light, high humidity, and regular watering.

 

Lemon Button Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia)


Identification Characteristics


The fragrant smell is the perk here! During the growing season, this plant gives off a faintly lemony smell. This fern is also super cute with its ovate leaflets. A smaller fern overall, it works well in terrariums or vivariums.

Leaf Shape


Long fronds with small circular pinnae

Color


Light green

Size

1 foot tall

Growing Tips  


Keep in
well-draining soil with high moisture. If growing in a terrarium, mix some rocks in the soil to promote drainage.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern

 

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)


Identification Characteristics


The most popular fern for houseplant fans around the world, the Boston fern is relatively easy to care for and beautiful in appearance. The fronds grow straight up initially, but begin to arc over with age, giving the fern a cascading look

Leaf Shape


Long fronds with short serrated pinnae

Color


Medium green

Size

2-3 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


While it can be grown outside in more tropical zones, Boston fern is most often kept as a houseplant. Grow in
well-draining soil with bright indirect light.

Fishtail Fern

Fishtail Fern

 

Fishtail Fern (Nephrolepis falcata furcans)


Identification Characteristics


This tropical fern is an epiphyte native to southeast Asia. The pinnae each look like a small fishtail as they break into segments.

Leaf Shape


Fronds are very long with short alternate pinna with segments at the end.

Color


Yellow-green

Size


Fronds are around
3 feet long.

Growing Tips  


Best planted in a
hanging container, these ferns will be more vibrant if grown in the shade.

 

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)


Identification Characteristics


This fern has both sterile and fertile fronds. While the sterile, vegetative fronds die back in the winter, the shorter woody, fertile fronds last throughout the seasons. However, it gets its name from the vegetative fronds that tend to wild as the first fall frost.

Leaf Shape


Triangular with large pinnae

Color


Bright green

Size

3-4 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


This plant likes
partial to full shade with consistent watering. In ideal conditions, it will spread happily.

 

Carrot Fern (Onychium japonicum)


Identification Characteristics


Extremely lacy fronds resemble the greens of a carrot, giving carrot fern its common name. Native to Asia, they can be found in deeply shaded forests. 

Leaf Shape


Multi-pinnate fronds. Pinnae are extremely thin and stringy.

Color


Light green

Size

18 inches tall and wide

Growing Tips


This deciduous, clumping fern grows best in
full shade with moist, well-draining soil. Bring indoors for winter.

 

Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana)


Identification Characteristics


Growing in a vase, this fern can be found on wooded slopes, drainages, and sandstone ledges of North America and China. The common name is derived from the spore-bearing pinnae that sprout in the middle of each frond. They fall off after the spores are released in mid-summer.

Leaf Shape


Bi-pinnately compound

Color


Bright green

Size


2-3 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


Interrupted ferns prefer
humus, moist soils, and partial to full shade.

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis)


Identification Characteristics


With a range across North and South America, this deciduous fern likes to grow near streams. Sometimes it even can be found growing in the water. With enough moisture, it can even grow to be 6 feet tall!

Leaf Shape


Broad fronds with distinctly spaced ovate pinnae.

Color


Medium green fronds turn yellow and brown in the fall.

Size

2-3 feet wide and tall

Growing Tips  


Enjoys
wet soil and partial shade. Royal fern can survive in full sun in cooler climates with enough moisture.

 

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)


Identification Characteristics


Native to East Asia and North America, this fern gets its name from fibrous structures at the base of each frond. Unsurprisingly, these fibers are cinnamon-colored. Spore producing fronds quickly turn brown, while the sterile ferns stay green.

Leaf Shape


Triangular, pinnately compound fronds

Color


Bright green

Size

2-3 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


Cinnamon ferns are happiest in
moist soil and partial to full shade.

 

Blue Bear’s Paw Fern (Phlebodium pseudoaureum)


Identification Characteristics


A very tropical looking plant, this fern makes an excellent houseplant. Leathery fronds look unusual as far as ferns go. It’s also known as Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern and some say it is reminiscent of snow mittens. 

Leaf Shape


Pinnae are broad, undulating, and well-spaced.

Color


Silvery blue

Size

1-2 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips 


This indoor fern likes
well-draining acidic soil with consistent moisture and indirect light.
 

Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)


Identification Characteristics


The classic epiphytic fern, staghorn ferns have a distinct appearance. The fronds extend from the basal leaf which envelopes the surface it’s growing on. The other leaves look similar to deer antlers, giving the fern its name.

Leaf Shape


Each frond branches into two or three segments that will branch a couple more times.

Color


Light green, the basal frond will turn brown with age.

Size


Up to
3 feet across

Growing Tips  


Staghorn ferns make a delightful and decorative houseplant. They are mounted on a wood slab with some sphagnum or peat moss to add a medium for the basal frond. They like
bright indirect light and to be kept quite moist. To water, soak the entire plant! They absorb water through all their fronds. In between soaks, mist often.

 

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)


Identification Characteristics


Found commonly in the Pacific Northwest, this fern grows epiphytically. Its favorite trees to grow on are big leaf maples, but you can also find them on rocks and logs.

Leaf Shape


Pinnately compound with alternating pinnae

Color


Dark green

Size

1-3 feet tall

Growing Tips  


A great addition to a landscape, this fern is
drought-tolerant and can sustain cooler temperatures.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)


Identification Characteristics


Native to eastern North America, this evergreen fern adds beauty all year round. It is common in wooded slopes and drainages. As the name suggests, it can be found thriving at Christmas time.

Leaf Shape


Pinnae are a couple of inches long and come to a sharp point. 

Color


Dark green

Size

1-2 feet tall

Growing Tips  


Tolerant of dry and moist soil, you can
plant outdoor ferns in your garden or keep it in a pot or hanging basket for indoor plants. Keep it in low light areas!

 

Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)


Identification Characteristics


One of the most common ferns on the west coast, this fern grows from southern California up to Alaska!

Leaf Shape


Pinnate with leaflets alternating up the stalk with serrated edges

Color


Dark green

Size


Up to 6 feet tall

Growing Tips  


Easy to grow with its
high tolerance for different climates and soils, this fern doesn’t even need as much water as most. Great for your outdoor garden!

 

Long-eared Holly Fern (Polystichum neolobatum)


Identification Characteristics


Known to be one of the hardiest ferns, the long-eared holly fern is also quite lovely. And it will remain lovely throughout the seasons!

Leaf Shape


Bipinnately compound with pinnae coming to a tapered point.

Color


Shiny and dark green

Size

1.5-2 feet tall

Growing Tips  


Once established, holly fern is quite drought-tolerant, but
needs to be kept in the shade. It will tolerate snow and freezing temperatures too!

 

Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)


Identification Characteristics


An evergreen fern from
Japan and Korea, the tassel fern grows in vase-like clumps and spreads outward.

Leaf Shape


Bipinnately compound

Color


Shiny, dark green

Size


1-2 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


Great for a
shady area to decorate your landscape.

 

Whisk Fern (Psilotum nudum)


Identification Characteristics


Native to Hawaii, this plant is often called Moa. Some consider it to be more of a pesky plant, but others encourage its growth since it doesn’t overpower its neighbors. These look quite strange and defy expectations of a classic fern. Its scientific name
translates to “bare naked” which refers to its lack of leaves. Instead, the plant looks like a maple tree in January or a whisk! The stems are triangular if you cut them horizontally which can be a helpful identification factor.

Leaf Shape


No fronds, branching stems with bright yellow spores.

Color


Dark to medium green

Size

1-2 feet

Growing Tips  


More humidity tends to create more lush plants, so
misting is encouraged. They have more flexible lighting conditions but need warm temperatures.

 

Eagle or Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum)


Identification Characteristics


Native across the Northern Hemisphere, this is a deciduous fern, commonly found in woods, fields, agricultural land, and marshes. With its extensive range, it has given rise to twelve distinct varieties depending on where in its range it’s found. New fiddleheads emerge in the spring.

Leaf Shape


Divided and distinctly triangular fronds with
2-3 times pinnately compound. (That’s a lacey plant!) 

Color


Bright green

Size

3-4 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


Bracken fern has a tendency to take over an area, so it’s rarely intentionally planted. Because of its resilience, it
can be grown in areas with poor soil conditions.

Silver Brake Fern (Pteris argyraea)


Identification Characteristics


Beautiful showy fronds have made this plant so popular among fern lovers. It’s native to
Southeast Asia and does best when grown in a climate similar to its tropical home.

Leaf Shape


Twice cut fronds with wide pinnae.

Color


Silvery centers surrounded with bright green edges

Size


1-2 feet

Growing Tips  


A tropical species that makes a great houseplant, keep this fern friend in a more
shaded area that won’t get too cold.

 

Cretan Brake Fern (Pteris cretica)


Identification Characteristics


Like others in its genus, brake ferns have spores that develop in an uninterrupted line on the margins of the pinnae. The many
cultivated varieties have different colors, but otherwise similar characteristics. These evergreen ferns grow in clumps and produce wiry stalks.

Leaf Shape


Fronds are somewhere between pinnate and palmate, with a few pinnae near the tip of each frond spreading out from a central point like an open hand. The pinnae are thin and long.

Color


Often with a lighter center and dark margins, the leaves can be anywhere from green to purple in color.

Size


1-3 feet tall

Growing Tips  


A popular houseplant with a few cultivated varieties, keep your Cretan Brake fern in
peat-based soil. They grow best with bright, indirect light and moist soil. Occasional misting will keep your fern happy too!

 

Chinese Ladder Brake Fern (Pteris vittata)


Identification Characteristics


Native to East Asia, and introduced to North America, this plant has an interesting power. It seems to grow better with the presence of
arsenic and actually compiles the deadly chemical in its fronds. Because of this, it could potentially be of use as a cleanup aid, though it is toxic to humans and other animals.

Leaf Shape


The pinnae of each frond are very long, skinny, and spaced apart.

Color


Bright green

Size


3-4 feet tall

Growing Tips  


Though this plant can grow easily in warm climates, its impact on ecosystems outside of its native range is not entirely clear. The state of Florida lists it as invasive.

Tongue Fern

Tongue Fern

 

Tongue Fern (Pyrrosia lingua)


Identification Characteristics


An evergreen fern, this plant gets its name for its resemblance to a long skinny tongue. The simple fronds have undulating edges that make it seem like it could have just licked an ice cream cone.

Leaf Shape


Simple, broadleaf fronds on this fern come to a sharp point.

Color


Green with a darker green center vein

Size


12-18 inches tall

Growing Tips  


Tongue fern grows in hardiness zones 6-10 but makes a great houseplant anywhere. It can grow on rocky hillsides, logs, or in hanging baskets. Give it
soil with good draining, and it won’t require too much work after that!

 

Leatherleaf Fern (Rumohra adiantiformis)


Identification Characteristics


Named for its propensity to resist wilting with thick leathery fronds, this plant is extremely popular among florists because it will last in flower arrangements. 

Leaf Shape


Twice-cut fronds have pinnae with serrated edges.

Color


Green

Size

3 feet tall and wide

Growing Tips  


Great as both a groundcover in the garden or in a hanging basket in your house, leatherleaf fern is easy to grow. It does require
regular watering and partial shade, and it does best in hardiness zones 9-11. Cut back old fronds when new ones begin to grow.

 

Kidney Fern (Hymenophyllum nephrophyllum)


Identification Characteristics


Endemic to New Zealand, this is a broadleaf fern with an interesting adaptation to conserve water. Hot, arid weather causes them to shrivel up, and they reopen when precipitation returns. The leaves are extremely thin, only a
few cells thick! It can grow on the forest floor along with tree trunks as an epiphyte.

Leaf Shape


As you might expect from the name, the fronds are kidney-shaped! 

Color


Bright green, with a shiny almost translucent look

Size


Each frond is between 3-10 centimeters in diameter.

Growing Tips 


Growing in the dense forests of New Zealand, this plant is
not propagated commercially. The Maori people use it as a perfume and medicine.

Giant Chain Fern (Woodwardia fimbriata)


Identification Characteristics


The
largest fern in North America, the Giant Chain fern is native to the West Coast. Depending on growing conditions, it can be either deciduous or evergreen. The name “chain” comes from the neat lines that the spores are arranged in along the underside of each frond.

Leaf Shape


Fronds are simple but with large, dramatic lobes that come to a point.

Color


Light green and turns yellow in colder parts of its range where it is deciduous.

Size


4-6 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide

Growing Tips  


A great plant for landscaping, this fern enjoys
sunnier areas and to be watered somewhat frequently (think at least once each week). 

 

With upwards of 10,000 species of ferns worldwide, the 50 we’ve listed here barely scratches the surface. However, these are some of the most remarkable and memorable ferns, and many can be grown as houseplants or in your garden! 

 

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