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Gymnocarpium dryopteris (Western oakfern)
Smith, R.W.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris

Gymnocarpium dryopteris (L.) Newman

Western Oakfern, Northern Oak Fern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Synonym(s): Dryopteris dryopteris, Dryopteris linnaeana, Phegopteris dryopteris, Thelypteris dryopteris


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), GL (N), SPM (N)

This small colony-forming, woodland fern grows 6-16 in. Its delicate fronds are triangular in outline and divided into deeply cut threes.


From the Image Gallery

2 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb , Fern
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Size Notes: Fronds up to about 16 inches long.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Not a flowering plant. Reproduces by spores.


USA: AK , AZ , CO , CT , IA , ID , IL , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MT , ND , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , SD , UT , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: BC , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Circumboreal, s. to upland VA, IA, NM, AZ & OR
Native Habitat: Cool, mossy or rocky woods & stream banks

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: This is an excellent ground cover for moist, shaded places. It spreads quickly and is easy to establish and maintain. Dies down in fall.


Description: Most easily propagated from rhizome pieces.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Gymnocarpium dryopteris in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Gymnocarpium dryopteris in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Gymnocarpium dryopteris


Record Modified: 2023-02-13
Research By: TWC Staff

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