Foliage Gardens - Catalog, Ferns

by Sue Olsen

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Fern Terminology

Genus Characteristics


*Indicates limit of one
***Indicates limit of 3

ADIANTUM VENUSTUM: Himalayan maidenhair: My parent plant has received more compliments than any other fern in the garden while steadfastly resisting spore propagation. After years of experimentation it has finally come from tissue culture. It is an evergreen with pink tinged new growth unfurling early (March here). It creeps gently, never invasively, forming a frothy carpet in light shade and makes a handsome underplanting for sturdy shade loving shrubs. Triangular 12” fronds. Zones 5-8. 8.00

ASPLENIUM ADULTERINUM: This is a very rare European hybrid between Asplenium trichomanes and A. viride as indicated by the “stem” which is trichomanes dark at the base and viride green in the upper portion. A challenging evergreen it displays handsomely as a close up feature in a container (and allows for a little botanical showmanship here as well.) In nature it grows in rocky alpine limestone outcroppings. I satisfy mine by providing good drainage and a hint of lime via bits of broken concrete. Do NOT use the lime that comes as fertilizer/dressing for lawns….too strong! 4-6”. Zones 5-8. ***11.00

ASTROLEPIS SINUATA: (Syn. Cheilanthes sinuata): Wavy cloak fern is living proof that not all ferns are shady woodlanders. This pinnate xeric is “cloaked” with white curly hairs on the fronds’ undersides and is a showstopper. It needs bright light, gritty, good draining soil and protection from winter wet. I grow it under the eaves facing south with filtered summer sunlight. Evergreen. 15” Zones 7-10. *8.00

ATHYRIUM OTOPHORUM: Auriculate lady fern: This is a colorful delight of Japanese origin with light green bipinnate fronds and a burgundy hue spreading onto the foliage from the rachis. New growth is the color of lime sherbet and displays well when surrounded with dark greens. Eastern customers recommend spring planting. Evergreen here, deciduous in colder climates. 2’. Zones 5-9. ***8.00

DRYOPTERIS AFFINIS ‘CRISPA GRACILIS’: A rugged dwarf, formal in appearance, that is a delight in the foreground of the shady to partially sunny rock garden, or container. Fastigiated, evergreen fronds radiate with crisp pinnae resembling a tiny conifer. Tough and tolerant. 8”. Zones 4-9. 8.00

DRYOPTERIS LEPIDOPODA: Sunset fern: This aptly named handsome coral, orange and gold Himalayan resembles D. wallichiana in outline but is enhanced with warmer sunset hues in new growth. Combine with spring flowers – epimediums, primroses. A favorite, sturdy evergreen. 2’. Zones 6-9. 9.00

DRYOPTERIS WALLICHIANA: Erect scaly evergreen beauty with intensely saturated warm colored spring growth. Dramatic architectural fronds to 5’. Mass in light to deep shade Zone (6)7-9. 8.00

POLYPODIUM SCOULERI: Elegant dark shiny green prostrate creeper native to coastal WA spruce trees. Prefers deep shade and consistent moisture. Evergreen. 6-18”, Zones 8-9. Small plants 6.00

POLYSTICHUM BRAUNII: Sturdy, brilliant evergreen dressed to the ground in foliage brings substance to the garden. Best in cool woodlands not hot humid sites. 2-3’ Zones 3-8. 8.00

POLYSTICHUM POLYBLEPHARUM: Tassel fern with silver fringed young fronds. Sparkly shine to the evergreen foliage. Needs consistent moisture. Outstanding indoors or out. 18-24” Zones 6-9. 8.00

Don’t forget Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns - great for gifts (even to oneself) 59.95 - postage (and autograph !) inc.

As always other ferns from recent catalogs are available but in a very limited supply. Feel free to inquire. It is always a delight to make a match for a wish.

Also since the first local spring sale is on April 19 and 20, it would be to your advantage (and mine) to have your order here before then. (e-mail followed by a payment is fine!) Many, many thanks friends.


Crosier or fiddlehead - an unfurling frond

Entire - an undivided frond

Fertile - spore bearing

Frond - a complete leaf which is made up of the:

Stipe - a stalk or petiole which supports the blade

Blade - the leafy portion of the frond

Pinna (Plural pinnae) - a primary division of the frond - a leaflet

Pinnate - once divided; bipinnate - twice divided; tripinnate - thrice divided

Pinnule - a division of a pinna - a segment

Rhizome - the growth center of the fern - roots below and fronds above

Sorus (plural sori) - a fruit dot containing spores

Spores - the fern's reproductive unit.


Noting the name, meaning, number and distribution of species and a brief description.

Adiantum aleuticum 'Subpumilum'

ADIANTUM - maidenhair - Greek - to shed water - 200 species, mostly tropical - worldwide - stipe brittle frequently black or red-black; fronds lacking a distinct midrib; foliage delicate, lacy, often drooping; thin textured; pinna fan or wedge shaped; sori around the outer edges covered with a false indusium of curled segments; evergreen and deciduous.

ARACHNIODES - spider like - 40 species - mostly temperate - evergreen - closely related to Polystichum and Dryopteris - stipes greenish or straw colored; rhizome frequently spreading; evergreen; tall foliage usually spiny; sori central; indusium kidney shaped.

ASPLENIUM - without spleen referring to a reputation for curing disorders of the spleen - 700 species - many hybrids - worldwide - usually evergreen; small with dark stipes; foliage varied - bird’s nest fern to A. trichomanes; stipes short; sori in herringbone pattern; indusium attached to a vein opening on one side (clamshell fashion).

ATHYRIUM - to sport - 180 species - temperate and tropical; deciduous; stipes usually stout and succulent; green or straw colored and long; fronds long thin textured; sori central with half moon shaped indusium opening along one side.

BLECHNUM - Greek name for a type of fern - 220 species - temperate and tropical; evergreen and sub-evergreen leathery and dimorphic (fertile and sterile fronds different); fertile fronds erect; sori linear occupying entire space from midrib to out edge of fertile frond segment; indusium linear with central lengthwise opening (slit down the middle)!

CHEILANTHES - lip fern - 150 species - temperate, tropical and arid - stipes short, brittle, dense in growth; tufted; often scaly or hirsute; foliage evergreen also hairy or with scales on the underside; pinnae beadlike; prefers dry rocky locations; will curl in drought revive with moisture; sori marginal covered with reflexed edge of pinna but not continuous around the edge.

CRYPTOGRAMMA - hidden sori - - 11 species - mostly temperate; small evergreens with light colored stipe; rock loving; dimorphic with fertile fronds erect; sori under overlapping margins.

CYRTOMIUM - arching - 15 species - temperate & sub tropical; stipe stiff; evergreen pinnate leathery foliage; bold; low light; smoke and drought tolerant; sori central with peltate (umbrella like) indusium.

CYSTOPTERIS - bladder fern - 18 species - temperate; small delicate, common; deciduous; light green; spore black when unripe; sori on veins with hood-like covering.

DRYOPTERIS - wood fern - 250 species (my original research indicated 1213 species - the botanical splitters have been at work) - worldwide; evergreen and deciduous, small to very large; sturdy; usually divided - often finely so; hybridizes frequently; sori central with kidney shaped indusium.

GYMNOCARPIUM - naked fruit - no indusium - few species - temperate; stiff brittle stipe; horizontal triangular fronds; deciduous; thin texture; spreading via underground rhizomes; sori round.

LYGODIUM - twining - 39 species - mostly tropical; climbing ferns; sterile portion evergreen; fertile portion a continuation of the main stem & deciduous; sori on underside of fertile segments.

MATTEUCCIA - named for an Italian physicist; 3 species - temperate; very large deciduous plumy fronds; dimorphic with sterile fronds to 5'; fertile fronds to 2' with sori in hard brown pods.

NOTHOLAENA - cloak fern - false indusium - 25 species - closely allied with Cheilanthes and Pellaea - mostly arid loving small ferns with proportionately long stipes; erect inhabitants of rocky dry places; foliage frequently with hairs, scales or waxy undercoating; sori hidden in wax, scales or around edges.

OSMUNDA - Osmund - Thor - Scandinavian god of war - 10 species - mostly temperate; large deciduous primitive ferns; moisture loving; spore not on underside of leaf but on separate stalks from rachis (flowering fern).

PELLAEA - dark - dusky - 85 species - temperate & tropical; rigid stiff stipe & frond; evergreen; often with powdery or waxy coverings; stipe dark purple; foliage usually blue; simply divided; rock ferns with long wiry roots; sori marginal; continuous under rolled edges of pinna.

PHYLLITIS - leaf - often listed as Asplenium - 8 species - many varieties - temperate; stipes very short; simple undivided foliage; evergreen long fronds; sori linear; prominent like rows of buttonholes opening through central split.

POLYPODIUM - many footed - 100 species (formerly 1127 species - see Dryopteris) - widely distributed; prominent creeping rhizome; often epiphytic; evergreen leathery leaves; usually pinnate; large round sori; no indusium.

POLYSTICHUM - many stitches - in reference to the spore pattern on the under leaf; 180 species - worldwide; mostly temperate; sturdy evergreen growth in a single crown or cluster; pinnate to finely divided foliage; short stipes; frequently with shiny foliage with bristly toothed edges; sori covered with peltate indusium.

WOODSIA - named for botanist Joseph Woods - 37 species - temperate to arctic; small deciduous ferns in woods and on rocks; spores brown on the outer edges of pinna; indusium fist like opening star like from under the sporangia.

WOODWARDIA - named for botanist Thomas Woodward - 14 species - mostly temperate - acid soil; extremely large coarse evergreen & deciduous ferns; sori in long lines like strings of sausage (hence chain fern); sori linear opening in a central split.

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