The Christmas fern is part of the wood fern family (Dryopteridaceae) and generally grows in a clump up to 2’ tall. The name the fern comes from the evergreen frond, which is present at Christmas. The fronds grow between 30-80cm long and 5-12 cm wide. The pinnae (leaflets) are divided into 20-35 pairs. The fronds are able to remain semi-erect until the first hard frost. In the spring, the young fiddleheads (crosiers) are silvery and scaled. The scaly stem (rhizome) of the Christmas fern is pale brown, stout, and subterranean. A distinctive characteristic of the fern is the decreased fertile pinnae size.
The spores of the Christmas fern tend to mature in June.
Christmas fern’s often thrive on a forest floor or on shady, rocky slopes.