Blechnum spicant

Common Name: deer fern 
Type: Fern
Family: Blechnaceae
Native Range: Temperate Northern Hemisphere
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Heavy Shade


Best grown in humusy, acidic, evenly moist, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. May be divided in spring. Spreads somewhat slowly by short creeping rhizomes. Deer fern has good winter hardiness in USDA Zone 5.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Blechnum spicant, called deer fern or hard fern, is a northern species with a somewhat circumpolar distribution but most ferns in the genus Blechnum are found in tropical areas. It is native to northwestern North American from Alaska to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, a small corner of northern Idaho and California. It primarily occurs in moist to wet coniferous forests, wet slide areas, stream banks or bogs in up to sub-alpine terrain. It is also native to Europe and northeast Asia. This fern is particularly distinctive because of its two different types of fronds. Evergreen sterile fronds (to 8-24” long) are stiff, leathery, pinnatifid and dark green, forming a loose outward-spreading, flattened rosette. As the season progresses, sterile fronds may lie horizontally on the ground. Fertile fronds (16-24” long) are located in an erect vertical fountain in the center of the sterile frond rosette. They are similar to the sterile ones but taller, with much thinner and widely separated leaflets. Fertile fronds turn brown and wither by the end of the summer, leaving the evergreen sterile rosette.

Genus name comes from the classical Greek name blechnon for a fern (probably not this one though).


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spot and rust may occur in some areas. Watch for caterpillars, mealybugs and scale.


Woodland or shade garden. Shaded border. Rock garden.