Plant Guide > Ferns > Beech Fern

Beech Fern



Polystichum Phegopteris
Gymnocarpium Phegopteris
Lastrea Phegopteris

The Beech Fern is a delicate plant, and disappears with the first frosts of the autumn. It has a slender creeping scaly stem, with black fibrous roots. The fronds appear in May, and are about six inches to a foot long. The stipites are generally twice as long as the leafy part of the frond, and are fleshy and very brittle. The fronds are triangular, extended into a long narrow point at the top : they are pinnate only at the base. The lower pair of pinnae droop downwards, the rest grow in an upward position. The mid-rib, principal veins, and margins of the frond, are more or less hairy on the under side; by which this species may be distinguished from the smaller specimens of Marsh Shield Fern, which it resembles. The sori are small, almost at the margins of the lobes.

This fern delights in wild and mountainous districts, wet woods, and the vicinity of waterfalls. In the vicinity of the falls of Lodore, celebrated in song dy the poet Southey, this fern is to be seen glistening with drops of spray from the water, which there comes

"Dashing and flashing, and splashing and clashing,
And so never ending, but always descending,
founds and motions for ever and ever are blending,
All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar,
And this way the water comes down at Lodore."

It is rather limited in its range, occurring, however, in England to the southward, westward, and northward; but appears to be entirely absent from the large midland and eastern tract. In Scotland it is not uncommon, but is rarely found in Ireland. There is no authority for its specific name of Beech Fern, as it is not found to grow especially around or near that tree, nor is there any likeness in it to the foliage of the Beech tree.

This is an elegant little species of fern, and grows freely, requiring but few conditions, excepting shade and freely-percolating moisture. It is well adapted for planting out on rock-work and old stumps of trees.