northern lady fern

(Athyrium filix-femina var. angustum)

Conservation Status
northern lady fern
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Northern lady fern is a relatively large, delicate, perennial fern that rises from a short-creeping rhizome and fibrous roots. The rhizome is sometimes semi-erect and often branched. It usually has the bases of dead stalks still attached. It often forms small colonies.

Sterile and fertile fronds are similar in appearance. The fronds are deciduous, erect, arching, 11½ to 36 long, and lacy in appearance. They form a compact, somewhat circular but irregular cluster.

The leaf stem (stipe) is 6 to 21½ long, shorter than the leafy portion (blade). It is stout and light green or straw-colored for most of its length. It is flattened at the base and becomes deeply grooved toward the top. At the base it is dark reddish-brown or black, swollen, and has 2 rows of teeth. The stipe is covered with scattered chaffy scales. The scales are brown to dark brown, linear to egg lance-shaped, 5 16 to long, and 1 16 wide.

The blade is elliptic, 12 to 30 long, 4 to 14 wide, 1 to 1½ times as long as the stipe. It is pinnately divided into 30 to 40 pairs of leaflets (pinnae). It tapers to a point with concave sides along the tip, and is widest below the middle. The 4th or 5th pair of pinnae is the largest pair. Only the lowest two pair are shortened. The lowest pair is conspicuously angled downward. The central axis of the blade (rachis) is pale green and usually hairless, sometimes sparsely glandular or hairy, sometimes with a few scattered scales.

The pinnae are oblong lance-shaped, short stalked or stalkless, and taper to a narrow point with concave sides along the tip. The longest pinnae are up to 8 long or longer, becoming shorter as they approach the tip. They are deeply, pinnately divided, with 12 to 20 segments (pinnules) per side.

The pinnules are variable. They are linear to oblong, angled at the tip, and asymmetrically wedge-shaped at the base. They are stalkless and may extend along the central axis of the pinna (costa) at the base. They are often deeply lobed (pinnatifid), cut up to halfway or more to the midrib (costule). The upper and lower surfaces are medium green to yellow-green and hairless. The veins visible on the underside are forked. They are free, meaning they do not rejoin but extend all the way to the margin. The margins are minutely toothed, tough, and firm, but elastic.

The rachis, costa, and costule have a V-shaped groove on the top. The groove of the costule connects with the groove of the costa, which connects to the groove of the rachis, which connects to the groove of the stipe.

The reproductive structures are born on the underside of the pinnules near the base. There are several clusters (sora) of spore-bearing cases (sporangia) arranged in one row on each side of the midrib halfway between the midrib and the margin. The sorus is narrowly oblong to linear, usually straight, and sometimes hooked at the end or horseshoe-shaped with the hook curled over a vein. It is covered with a protective veil (indusium). The indusium is the same shape as the sorus. It is irregularly toothed and has a fringe of hairs along the margin. It is attached to one side of the sorus.

There are 64 yellow or brown spores per sporangium.




Fronds 11½ to 36 long


Similar Species


Common wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) fronds are evergreen, not deciduous. The sori are round. The indusia are kidney-shaped and are attached at the base of the notch.

Northwestern lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina var. cyclosorum) scales on the stipe are much larger, up to ¾ long and 3 16 wide. The blade is about 2 times as long as the stipe. It is broadest at or just above the middle. The sorus is always hooked or horseshoe-shaped. The indusium has a fringe of longer hairs along the margin, the hairs as longer or longer than the width of the indusium. The spores are always yellow. It has been reported only once in Minnesota, in Hennepin County.

Spinulose wood fern (Dryopteris carthusiana) fronds are evergreen, not deciduous, and are usually smaller, no more than 30 long. The sori are round. The indusia are kidney-shaped and are attached at the base of the notch.


Moist. Bottomland forests, moist woods, meadows, thickets, swamps, streambanks. Dappled sunlight to light shade.




July to October


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.








Common and widespread

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Polypodiophytina  
  Class Polypodiopsida (ferns)  
  Subclass Polypodiidae  


Polypodiales (true ferns)  


Aspleniinae (eupolypods II)  


Athyriaceae (ladyferns and allies)  


Athyrium (lady ferns)  
  Section Athyrium  


Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)  

Subordinate Taxa


Northern lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina var. angustum f. rubellum) has a reddish stipe and rachis. The fiddleheads are reddish.




Athyrium angustum

Athyrium angustum var. rubellum

Athyrium angustum var. subtripinnatum

Athyrium filix-femina ssp. angustum

Athyrium filix-femina ssp. michauxii

Athyrium filix-femina ssp. rubellum


Common Names


common lady fern

lady fern

northeastern lady fern

northern lady fern

subarctic lady fern

subarctic ladyfern












The central axis of a pinna, to which pinnules are attached.



The midrib of a pinnule.



A large leaf with many divisions: in ferns, the compound leaf, including the stipe and the blade; in mosses, a closely and regularly branched stem resembling a fern leaf; in lichens, a stalkless, leaf-like extension.



Undergarment. In ferns: A veil covering the cluster (sorus) of spore-producing structures (sporangia). In fungi: A skirt-like structure hanging from the cap (receptacle) of a stinkhorn.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



The primary division of a compound leaf or fern frond.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



Deeply cut, more than half way to the midrib but not to the midrib, into lobes that are spaced out along the midrib; the lobes do not form separate leaflets.



The ultimate segment (individual leaflets) of a twice or more compound leaf or fern frond.



The main axis of a compound leaf, appearing as an extension of the leaf stalk; the main axis of an inflorescence.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



A compact cluster of spore-bearing cases or sacs (sporangia) on a fern.



A spore bearing structure, as of a fern or moss.



A supporting stalk-like structure lacking vascular tissue: in fungi, the stalk supporting the mushroom cap; in ferns, the stalk connecting the blade to the rhizome; in flowering plants, the stalk connecting the flower’s ovary to the receptacle; in orchids; the band connecting the pollina with the viscidium.

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  Lady Fern - Athyrium filix femina - Plant TV
Plant TV

Published on Apr 11, 2014

Lady Fern - Athyrium filix femina

You may have Lady fern in your own house. Many people use it to decorate their homes. You may see it hanging or potted. People in Victorian times were crazy about Lady fern. However, Lady fern is not only found in the house. It also grows in the wild, especially in deciduous forests and the taiga of North America and Eurasia.

Lady Fern is a deciduous, perennial fern about 24 to 36 inches tall. Its light green, lacy leaves are about 24 to 30" long and 6 to 9" wide and tapered at both ends. The fronds are cut twice and grow from a central base. The J-shaped spore casings, or sori, grow on the underside of the leaf.




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Other Videos
  Athyrium filix femina
wander van laar

Published on Jun 14, 2014

No description available.

  Lady Fern
Joe Addair

Uploaded on Sep 23, 2011

another great plant/herb for the ladies




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Location: Cass County

northern lady fern  

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Baker Park Reserve

Banning State Park

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blackhoof River WMA

Blaine Wetland Sanctuary

Boot Lake SNA

Brownsville Bluff SNA

Butterwort Cliffs SNA

Cannon River Wilderness Area

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Park Reserve

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chimney Rock SNA

Clear Lake SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Crow Wing State Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Crystal Spring SNA

Dodge Nature Center

Falls Creek SNA

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glendalough State Park

Great River Bluffs State Park

Greenwater Lake SNA

Gustafson’s Camp SNA

Hampton Woods WMA

Hardscrabble Woods / MG Tusler Sanctuary

Hastings SNA

Helen Allison Savanna SNA

Hemlock Ravine SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Itasca State Park

Jay Cooke State Park

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Laible Woods

Lake Alexander Woods SNA, South Unit

Lake Bemidji State Park

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Maria State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lester Lake SNA

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Lutsen SNA

Maplewood State Park

Mary Schmidt Crawford Woods SNA

McCarthy Beach State Park

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Mille Lacs Moraine SNA

Mille Lacs WMA

Minneopa State Park

Moose Lake State Park

Mound Prairie SNA

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Myhr Creek Ridge SNA

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Partch Woods SNA

Paul Bunyan Savanna

Pigeon River Cliffs

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Potato Lake SNA

Prairie Creek Woods SNA

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Quarry Park SNA

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Ripley Esker SNA

Ritter Farm Park

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rockville County Park

Rushford Sand Barrens SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

St. Croix State Park

Sakatah Lake State Park

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Scenic State Park

Schoolcraft State Park

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Seven Springs WMA

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA

Spring Creek Prairie SNA

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Springbrook Nature Center

Sunfish Lake Park

Swedes Forest SNA

Tamarack Nature Center

Tiedemann WMA

Townsend Woods SNA

Twin Lakes SNA

Uncas Dunes SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Westwood Hills Nature Center

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Whitewater State Park

Wild Indigo SNA

Wild River State Park

William O’Brien State Park

Wood-Rill SNA

Woodbury WMA

Woodland Trails Regional Park

Zumbro Falls Woods SNA





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