Merry Christmas Fern

Christmas fern
See the stocking heels by the rachis?

Christmas fern at Christmas! Polystichum acrostichoides. We saw oodles at Beaman Park yesterday and I hoped, what with it being Christmas Eve and all, that an ID would prove Christmas fern. Bingo.

So called because
1) it is green and abundant at the right time, and folks used to cut leaves for decoration, to echo the evergreen nature of the Reason for the Season and
2) each individual leaflet has a funny asymmetry which makes it look—to the willing imagination—like a stocking. The lump is the heel.

My imagination is willing, but it’s a stretch to liken a fern frond to a string of tiny Christmas stockings.

Christmas fern is a native, it forms clumps that make good wildlife cover, it loves well-drained soil over limestone, and the fiddleheads of spring are said to be edible (but carcinogenic).


Isn’t it a relief we can’t blame global warming or El Niño for this gorgeous green in winter?