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A relatively low-growing forest fern due to the short stipe (stem) of the frond, male fern grows up to 40 inches (1 m) tall. The stipe is also thickly covered in pale brown slightly bronze scales. The twice-divided fronds are relatively narrow, tapering at the tip and towards the base. With small teeth along the margins of the pinnules and a slightly leathery texture, the male fern appears stouter and less delicate when compared to many of the more common wood ferns.
Like most of our native ferns, male fern is a woodland fern preferring deciduous forests with tall canopies. Historically male fern would have been found amongst the oaks and beech trees that were once more common on PEI.
Ferns fulfill a number of functions such as providing ground nesting habitat for woodland birds or food sources for larval insects and their predators.
Areas of Usage:
Male fern is not our showiest native fern—it doesn’t boast the rusty colours of the cinnamon fern, or the plumes of the ostrich fern—but its deep green fronds hold their colour late into the year and it really stands out as a handsome plant. Male fern has become a forest restoration standard at Macphail Woods. It seems to thrive best in older deciduous woods but does very well in younger mixed stands and along forest paths. It is also a versatile plant for landscaping, working well in shady wildflower or fern gardens or tucked away from the sun near a deck or shed.