Deer Fern

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Deer Fern, Vancouver Island, BC
Deer Fern, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

This Northwest native is a beautiful forest fern which provides winter forage for deer, elk and other animals from Vancouver Island to Alaska. The Deer Fern is very attractive.

I love hiking around on the Island and walking through an old-growth forest that has a moss and fern understory.

This Fern grows to a height of up to 50 cm with a width of 60 cm. It features lance-shaped compound leaves that resemble small ladders. The lower leaves form a basal rosette from which new shoots emerge. The lower leaves are sterile, while the center upright leaves are fertile. When the upright fronds dry out in winter, still hovering above fully green prostrate leaves, they look sufficiently flower-like to be of added interest if left untrimmed. Older plants develop more of the ground-hugging sterile leaves.

This plant can be grown as a home garden plant and does best in partial to deep shade. If it outgrows a location the spreading clumps can be divided in the spring. Deer fern is an indicator of moist to wet forests from sea level to mountain zones.

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