Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Athyrium filix-femina - Lady fern

Family: Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern family) [E-flora]

Subtaxa Present in B.C.

"Athyrium filix-femina is a deciduous Fern growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 2. The seeds ripen from Jul to August.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

"General: Deciduous perennial arising from a short, stout rhizome." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Leaves: Numerous, in vase-like tufts, 30-180 cm long, 10-70 cm wide, broadly lanceolate, broadest in the middle and gradually narrowed both to the base and to the top, 2-pinnate with pinnae divided into numerous ultimate segments." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range
Mesic to wet alluvial forests, glades, streambanks, gullies, slidetracks, meadows, swamps and rock outcrops from the lowland and steppe to alpine zones; common throughout BC; amphiberingian, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to SD, NM, AZ and CA; E Asia." [IFBC-E-flora] "Moist sheltered woods, hedgebanks and ravines[4], usually on acidic soils but also found in drier and more open habitats[187]. Throughout the N. Temperate zone, including Britain, to the mountains of India, tropical S. America " [PFAF]

Status: Native [E-flora]

"The fresh shoots contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172]. Although we have found no reports for this species, a number of ferns also contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]." [PFAF]

Ecological Indicator Information

"A shade-tolerant, submontane to montane, circumpolar fern distributed in Pacific, Cordilleran, and Atlantic North America. Occurs on very moist to wet, nitrogen-rich soils within boreal, temperate, and mesothermal climates. Plentiful to abundant (occasionally dominant) in non-forested communities or forest understories on water-receiving (alluvial, floodplain, seepage, and stream-edge) sites; often inhabits water-collecting (swamps and fens) sites. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." (Information applies to coastal locations only) [IPBC-E-flora]

Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

"A root tea is made for relieving caked breasts in a nursing mother. It is also used for various female disorders. Among the whites,229 the root is used for its anthelminthic and vermifuge properties." [HuronSmith Zuni]

Other Usage


"Tannins (8%)" [PDR]
"C-glucosyl flavones: including mangiferin" [PDR]
Phytoecdysones [PDR]
Amaroids [PDR]
"Saponin: including the steroid saponin osladin" [PDR]
Essential oil [PDR]

"An easily grown plant[4], it is calcifuge and prefers an acid soil with a pH from 4.5 to 6.5, but it tolerates alkaline soils if plenty of leaf mould is added[200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist sheltered site with moderately high atmospheric humidity[200]. A very ornamental [1] and polymorphic species, there are many named varieties selected for their ornamental value[187]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]." [PFAF]

"Spores - surface sow in a pot of sterile compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep moist, this is most easily done by putting the pot in a plastic bag. Pot up small clumps of the plants when they are large enough to handle and keep them moist until they are established. Plant out in late spring of the following year. Division in spring as plants come into growth. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well." [PFAF]

Aspidium filix-femina (L.) Sw. Synonym ** Confidence []
Asplenium dombeyi (Desv.) Mett. Synonym ** Confidence []
Asplenium filix-femina (L.) Bernh. Synonym ** Confidence []
Lastrea filix-femina (L.) Colomb Synonym ** Confidence []
Nephrodium filix-femina (L.) Michx. Synonym ** Confidence []
Polypodium filix-femina L. Synonym ** Confidence []


Athyrium Sp. - Lady Fern

"Rhizome short-creeping to suberect, stout. Leaf: stipe stout, fleshy, easily crushed, straw-colored except base generally blackened, base scaly, ×-section with 2 crescent-shaped vascular strands; blade generally >= 2-pinnate, pinnae of equal sides, ± glabrous or minutely hairy, veins free. Sporangia: sori ± round, ± oblong, or J-shaped; indusia 0, oblong, J-shaped, or reniform, laterally attached.
± 100 species: generally northern temperate, especially eastern Asia. (Greek: doorless, from enclosed sori)" [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Athyrium filix-femina - lady fern [E-flora]
  2. Athyrium distentifolium - alpine lady fern [E-flora]


Athyrium distentifolium - alpine lady fern

Subtaxa Present in B.C.

"General: Deciduous perennial arising from a short, stout rhizome." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat/Range Dry to moist talus slopes, rocks and rocky meadows in the subalpine and alpine zones; infrequent in S BC, rare northward; N to AK, YT and NT, disjunct in PQ and NF and S to CO, UT, NE and CA." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Notes: Fuchs (1974) showed that the name, Athyrium alpestre (Hoppe) Ryland is a later homonym of A. alpestre Clairv. and must be rejected." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Unlisted [E-flora]


Page last modified on Friday, January 22, 2021 4:56 AM