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British Native Ferns


Many of the ferns which you can grow in the garden are of British Native origins, and the native fern species are among some of the best you can grow. Not only that, but of course by growing them you do not merely create a beautiful garden, but you also give a home to some often endangered plants, and the species of animals which depend on them. You will find here some of my recommendations for the best British species you can grow, why they have ecological value, plus why and how they should be grown.

The British native Pteridophytes alone amount to some seventy five species, plus numerous subspecies and naturally occurring variations; many more than can be listed on this page. Almost all of which are both attractive and distinct enough to be worthy of the space they would take up in the garden.

Mountain and Rock Ferns.


The hills and mountains contain many ferns which will grow just as well in lowland gardens, such as. Cystopteris fragilis, Brittle Bladder Fern. A really fine looking fern, 40cm grows well in the garden if given good drainage, but is uncommon in the wild.


Asplenium (Whole genera) All the wall ferns are becoming less common as dry stone and lime mortared walls become less numerous. But all except the very pretty A. trichomanes and Asplenium scolopendrium the Harts Tongue, are difficult in the garden for all but an expert.


Also, Oreopteris limbosperma, Lemon Scented Fern, a mountain beauty, pale lemon in colour if not scent. For people who need more of a challenge, then Polystichum lonchitis, the Holly Fern is a beautiful but difficult small rock fern for limestone


Good Wood Ferns.


Most of the wood ferns especially the Dryopteris species are easy and accommodating in the garden especially easy Dryopteris filix-mas which will grow nearly anywhere, also good is D. dillatata, the Broad Buckler Fern. These are perhaps however the commonest ferns in the wild and so you are not giving a home to anything that is endangered, but you could by planting them be creating habitat for other things.


Dyopteris affinis, and Dryopteris carthusiana, are both beautiful native ferns, less common than the above and well worth growing in the garden. D. affinis is large 1m plus and makes a fine display, while D. carthusiana is a gentle 40cm tall plant.


Athyrium filix-femina, The Lady Fern. A beautiful fine textured fern, which is less common than most and makes really good habitat. A first class wild fern for the garden, but will not tolerate bone dry conditions quite as well as Dryopteris.


Native Ferns for Damp Ground.


Osmunda regalis, The Royal Fern. A big and spectacular perhaps our largest native. And like many wetland plants becoming increasingly rare, needs as many good homes as it can get.


Thelypteris paulistris, Marsh Fern. A gently spreading fern, 60cm high, only for lime free soils a bit of a challenge but very rare in the wild indeed. You would help a very rare plant if you planted this.


Blechnum spicant, Hard Fern. Striking looking evergreen fern for a damp spot on lime free ground. Quite rare and could gain from planting in gardens.


Ground cover ferns.


Gymnocarpium dryopteris, The Oak Fern, and Phegopteris connectillis, Beech Fern. Are both beautiful and rare ground cover ferns, found on acid soils. If you need one for lime soils then Gymnocarpium robertianum, Limestone Polypod is a good choice.


Polypodium sp. Are the easiest and robustest of all ground cover ferns for the garden, though not as pretty as the Gymnocarpiums, or as rare, they do make good garden plants. There are three species in Britain with hybrids between them and they are not easy to tell apart, but all are good in the garden.


Really rare ferns indeed.


There are many native ferns which are very uncommon indeed, but are much harder to grow in the garden, and therefore offer a challenge for the serious enthusiast. Some of the best of these are.-

Cryptogamma crispa, Parsley Fern. Ophioglossum vulgar, Adders Tongue. Asplenium viride, Green Spleenwort. Asplenium ceterach, Rusty Back Fern. Dryopteris expansa, Northern Buckler Fern. Woodsia ilvensis. Pillularia globulifera.