Dryopteris filix-mas

Common Name: male fern 
Type: Fern
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Native Range: Northern temperate regions
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Tolerate: Rabbit, Heavy Shade, Clay Soil


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers consistently moist, humusy soils that are rich in organic matter. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. Site in locations protected from strong winds to prevent damage to the fronds. Crowns may be divided regularly.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Dryopteris filix-mas, commonly called male fern, is native to Europe and North America. This is a large, arching, deciduous male fern with erect, stout rhizomes and medium green blades (fronds) that grow to 3’ (less frequently to 4’) tall. Blade is pinnate-pinnatifid (almost 2-pinnate) with 20-30 pair of long-pointed pinnae (leaflets) per blade. Each leaflet is divided into short, rounded, finely-serrated pinnules (sub-leaflets). Sori (fruit dots) on the leaflets are located closer to the midvein than the margin. Crisped, crested, forked and dwarf variants of this species exist. In North America, this fern ranges from Newfoundland to British Columbia, from New England to the Great Lakes, and from South Dakota to Washington south to California and Texas. It is typically found in cool, moist, rocky woods, but in New England it is uncommon and limited only to areas with calcareous soils. In Europe, it is commonly found in a variety of locations including roadsides.

Genus name from Greek dryas meaning oak and pteris meaning fern in reference to the presence of some species of wood ferns in woodland areas populated with oaks.

Specific epithet means male fern in reference to the somewhat vigorous growing habits of ferns in this species.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Excellent fern for woodland or shade gardens. Good specimen.