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Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrosticoides)

Christmas Fern A walk along the Arboretum trails during winter months finds very few green plants on the forest floor. The evergreen leaves (fronds) of Christmas Fern, however, persist throughout the winter months. New growth is initiated in early April when young leaves, known as fiddleheads, emerge. Although the fiddleheads of other ferns are considered delicacies, the scaly nature of the leaf rachises of Christmas Fern detract from their culinary appeal.

Christmas Fern Sori In late May and early June, clusters of brown sori (spore-bearing structures) are found on the underside of the upper 1/3 of the fertile fronds (leaves). Christmas fern gets its common name from its stocking-shaped leaflets along the pinnately compound leaves and from the historical use of the leaves as Christmas decorations. The species is widely distributed in forests of the Central and Eastern U.S. It is frequently planted for groundcover, especially in shady areas and on slopes. Because it is evergreen and has a well-developed underground rhizome system, it is used in landscaping to help control erosion.

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