Medicinal Plants, Pacific Northwest
Lady Fern is a deciduous, perennial fern about 60 to 90 cm tall. Its light green, lacy leaves are about 60 to 75 cm long and 15 cm to 25 cm wide and tapered at both ends. The fronds are cut twice and grow from a central base.
In the wild, Lady ferns can be found growing in meadows, open thickets, moist woods, and along stream beds. They also grow in the cracks of rocks. On the BC coast it usually grows in the understory of Cedar, Douglas fir and Western Hemlock.
Lady ferns prefer shaded areas. Many Lady ferns will grow in a group in the shape of a circle. As they grow farther and farther outwards, the centers die away, leaving a ring of Lady Ferns. Lady ferns reproduce by thick, scaly rhizomes and spores. Bears like to eat Lady ferns as a major food source. Elk will also eat it.
Native Americans had many uses for Lady ferns. They used lady ferns for drying berries on, and covering food. The young shoots, or the fiddleheads, were cooked, baked or eaten raw. Tea was made from the leaves to help urination and to stop breast pain caused by childbirth. The tea was also used to ease labor pains. Roots were dried and ground into a dust to help heal wounds.