Wood fern, also called coastal wood fern, is a beautiful, semi-evergreen native fern that is both drought-tolerant and deer resistant, making it one of the most versatile for a Pacific Northwest garden. Its lovely ruffled foliage and dramatically tapered tips provide visual interest and structure, and can spread nicely to lusciously fill sparse woodland areas. It's also relatively uncommon in nurseries, making this a great find!
- Plant type/canopy layer: semi-evergreen fern
- Size at maturity: up to 2’ tall and 1-3’ wide
- Light requirements: full shade, part sun/part shade
- Moisture requirements: moist to dry
- Bloom time: n/a
- Growth rate/ease: medium growth rate, easy to grow
- Wildlife support: host plant and larval food source for native moths, including the Orange Tortrix Moth
- Native habitat/range: Common in open woodlands and shaded slopes up to 4800ft across the Pacific Northwest from CA to British Columbia and southeast to AZ. Portland Plant List - yes
- Special features & uses: deer resistant; drought tolerant; evergreen; landscape uses include pollinator gardens, woodland gardens, slopes and border plantings, spreads to form a tall groundcover over time
Gardening with Coastal Wood Fern: This hardy fern would typically be found on shady north-facing slopes or in the dry-shady understory of upland trees. Though it prefers loamy soils, it can tolerate drought, as well as heavy clay soils. It is “stress deciduous” meaning its frond will naturally die back when under stress, but will soon return when growing conditions improve. Coastal wood fern will spread by underground runners, creating a tall groundcover over time. It reproduces via visible sporangia; reproductive structures that hold the spores and are designed to collect a single raindrop, in which the spores germinate.
Photo Credit 1: "H20120603-5082--Dryopteris arguta--RPBG" by John Rusk is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Photo Credit 2: "J20151112-0068—Dryopteris arguta—RPBG" by John Rusk is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Photo Credit 3: "Dryopteris arguta" by brewbooks is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.