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Ferns Equal Variety and Versatility: End the Curse of the Mundane

Updated on March 23, 2016
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Tammy is an avid gardening writer and love the horticulture field. Selling USDA licenses plants to all states and 13 foreign countries.

Ferns have too long been labeled in the minds of many as plainly green, boring plants. Commonly, people simply aren’t aware of just how much variety and versatility the many different types of fern plants represent.

Ferns come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some ferns are more suited to indoor growth while others thrive in the throes of nature. Some ferns thrive in heavily shaded recesses of the growing area, and others can handle more sunlight and less water.

Diverse display of Ferns
Diverse display of Ferns | Source

There are over 10,000 different species of Ferns.

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Read on to learn more about one of Mother Nature's most interesting creations. Take a look at this short synopsis exhibiting the true variety and versatility of this ancient survivor.

Ghost Fern

Closer view of the intricate workings on the fronds of a Ghost Fern
Closer view of the intricate workings on the fronds of a Ghost Fern | Source

The Color Painters

The Ghost Fern (Athyrium) or Painted Fern is an excellent example of a colorful fern. This plant’s new sprouts bloom white and slowly get a bit darker, but never more than a grayish tone. The Ghost fern’s silvery tones are deeply accented with a burgundy outline.

Autumn Fern

The beautiful Autumn Fern in all it's glory!
The beautiful Autumn Fern in all it's glory! | Source

The brilliant Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erthyrosora) is at its best this time of the year. Spring brings new orange and rosy toned fronds to this fern. When Summer is in full swing, this type of fern plant exudes a dark shiny green from its fronds.

The Sun Lovers

The Sword Fern is a sun-loving evergreen fern. If planted in the most suitable of conditions, this fern can grow up to four feet tall and spread across a vast eight feet of the ground. Its fronds grow in the shape of a sword, thus the name.

Licorice Fern growing on a tree.
Licorice Fern growing on a tree. | Source

The Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) gets its name from its flavor. When ingested this fern tastes a bit bittersweet, like licorice. This is a unique fern, as it lives on the surrounding plant life to survive. It tends to grow on trees and rocks in nature. It’s a bit finicky, so make sure to get educated on critical care tips for the Licorice fern.

The Shade Lovers

This first shade lover looks as though it belongs in the tropical regions of the world. Hart’s tongue Fern sports leathery fronds with a dark outline along its stem and leaves. It looks very similar to a tongue at first sight.


The second shade lover with an honorable mention is the Oak Fern. This plant stays closer to the soil, and never grows much more than a foot tall. They’re good when mixed with wildflowers to produce a beautiful spectacle in blooming season.

A young long-eared holly fern.
A young long-eared holly fern. | Source

Drought Tolerant Ferns

Ferns are generally thought to be moisture lovers. There are some that thrive in dryer conditions. The Long-eared Holly Fern (Polystichum neolobatum) is a prime example. It’s a heavily glossed fern exhibit, with a slight silver wash over its fronds.

The Alpine Water Fern is not only a beautiful display of vibrant color, but it’s also tolerant of sparse water reserves. Due to its high rate of survival and heartiness, this fern is a favorite of garden lovers. Plant these underneath trees or shrubs for the best results.

The Life Cycle of a Fern



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