Evergreen Ferns

Many ferns boast exquisite form and are splendid photographic subjects. Seeking them is a fine excuse for a late season ramble.

December 11, 2012 | | Notes from the Wild

Wood fern species

Wood fern species

Colour in the late autumn woods is muted. Fallen leaves of ochre, tan and russet carpet the forest floor. Swaddled by those leaves are the buds of innumerable wildflowers, but their radiance must wait until spring.

Welcome then, is the green of the evergreen ferns that shrug off the deepening cold.

Many ferns boast exquisite form and are splendid photographic subjects. Seeking them is a fine excuse for a late season ramble.

The tumbledown rocks on Niagara Escarpment slopes are good places to look for ferns. Moss covers many of these rocks and provides a perfect growing medium for several evergreen fern species. Together, moss and fern create picturesque natural gardens.

Walking fern, the apt symbol of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, is one of these moss-loving species. Its long triangular leaves reach out from a central hub. Remarkably the tips of these leaves can sprout roots and “walk” the fern over mossy rocks.

A tiny fern called the maidenhair spleenwort also rises from a mossy bed. The delicate beauty of its slender fronds belies a hardiness that sees it through the winter.

The abundant polypody fern remains evergreen as well. Properly coiffed escarpment rock wears mossy hair with polypody extensions.

One of my favourite evergreen ferns is the marginal shield fern. This fern assumes the classic fern shape, with long dark green fronds arching from a central crown. Shield fern thrives on rocky slopes. Sometimes it keeps company with ferns of the wood fern group, an assortment of beauties with lacy fronds.

And then there is the aptly named Christmas fern. Reminiscent of the Boston ferns of parlors and living rooms, the Christmas fern lends similar grace to woodland floors.

Finding these evergreen ferns is not always easy, but that makes their discovery all the more rewarding.

wood fern species wood fern species walking fern walking fern polypody fern and marginal shield fern polypody fern (and marginal shield fern in corner) marginal shield fern maidenhair spleenwort maidenhair spleenwort Christmas fern Christmas fern
Polypody fern (and marginal shield fern in corner)


About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".



  1. Just discovered your site —love it

    noreen from Goderich on Apr 9, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Reply

    • And I just discovered your kind comment Noreen! Great to hear from a reader in Huron County – a very bio-diverse part of Ontario. I hope you have plenty of fine adventures in nature this summer.


      Don Scallen on May 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Reply

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