Dryopteris filix-mas

Dryopteris filix-mas

Dryopteris filix-mas (Common Male Fern or Male Fern) is one of the most common ferns of the temperate Northern Hemisphere, occurring throughout much of Europe, Asia, and North America. It favours damp shaded areas and is common in the understory of woodlands, but is also found in shady places on hedge-banks, rocks, and screes. It is much less abundant in North America than in Europe.

The half-evergreen leaves have an upright habit and reach a maximum length of 1.5 m, with a single crown on each rootstock. The bipinnate leaves consist of 20-35 pinnae on each side of the rachis. The leaves taper at both ends, with the basal pinnae about half the length of the middle pinnae. The pinules are rather blunt and equally lobed all around. The stalks are covered with orange-brown scales. On the abaxial surface of the mature blade 5 to 6 sori develop in two rows. When the spores ripen in August to November, the indusium starts to shrivel, leading to the release of the spores.

This species hybridises easily with Dryopteris affinis (Scaly Male Fern) and Dryopteris oreades (Mountain Male Fern).

Cultivation and uses

The root was used, until recent times, as an anthelmintic to expel tapeworms. It is sometimes referred to in ancient literature as Worm Fern. It is also grown as an ornamental fern in gardens.

References and external links

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