Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Plant of the Week: Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Back in late 1800's Victorian era in this country it was fashionable to decorate the house with a wreath made with ferns and since this species is evergreen it was the most desirable plant to use. The story goes that John Robinson of Salem, MA coined it the Christmas Fern for this reason.  Other potential reasons it was named Christmas fern was that it was the only fern green this time of year and if you look at the individual pinnae since ferns don't have leaves they are arranged in alternate pairs along the central stem (called a rachis) and at the broad end of each pinnae near the stem is an ear-lobe like protrusion and when viewed it looks like a Christmas stocking.  The name actually comes from Greek for many (poly) rows (stichos) and refers to the rows of small reproductive structures, called sorus, covering the undersides of the fertile leaflets. The species name, acrostichoides, means "like Acrostichum," which is a genera of tropical ferns where the sori are very dense and cover the lower parts of the frond. The Christmas fern is in the wood fern family. The fronds on individual plants can reach about 2' tall and the fertile fronds remain evergreen.  There are 20 - 40 leaflets on each frond and sori are found in the upper third of the frond.  Christmas ferns are easy to grow in the shade garden as long as they have well drained soil.  They absolutely do not like wet or waterlogged soils but they can tolerate a good bit of sunlight.  In the early spring, usually in April, the new fronds sprout and these "fiddleheads" can be eaten fresh or fried.  Very few animals eat this plant so if you have high deer numbers it is a great plant for the shade garden.  Once you have some established the best method of propagation is from root division as they do not seem to reproduce well from spores in a garden setting.  This is a very adaptable species and can be grown in either acidic or neutral soils.  Finally, there are no serious pests that use this species.

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