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Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern)
Cressler, Alan

Thelypteris kunthii

Thelypteris kunthii (Desv.) Morton

Wood Fern, River Fern, Southern Shield Fern, Kunth's Maiden Fern, Normal Shield Fern

Thelypteridaceae (Marsh Fern Family)

Synonym(s): Dryopteris normalis, Dryopteris saxatilis, Thelypteris macrorhizoma, Thelypteris normalis, Thelypteris saxatilis, Thelypteris unca


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I), PR (N), VI (N)

The gracefully arching fronds of this fern are lime to medium-green in color and grow 2-3 ft. high by 8-12 in. wide. The fronds reach in all directions from clusters of stalks occuring at intervals along the rhizome. The foliage is almost twice cut and the pinnae taper to a point. The species takes on a bronze cast as winter approaches.

Wood Fern can add texture to a shade garden throughout the year and is great for wetland and water garden habitat.


From the Image Gallery

20 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Fern
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Semi-evergreen
Size Notes: Fronds arching, up to about 5 feet long.

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , LA , MS , SC , TX
Native Distribution: SC to FL, w. to west TX and s. to Caribbean islands
Native Habitat: Swamps, canyons; stream banks; low woods; dripping limestone

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moist sand, loam, clay, or limestone. Poor drainage okay.
Conditions Comments: West of east Texas, called River Fern because it is only found along or near bodies of water. East of central Texas, found in moist woods and called Wood Fern.


Use Ornamental: A low maintenance groundcover fern for shade
Interesting Foliage: yes
Deer Resistant: High


Propagation Material: Root Division
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Water during droughts. Cut back dead fronds before spring growth emerges.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Austin Shade Plants for Pots
March 28, 2010
I live in a condo in Austin Texas so I don't have any flower beds or yard space. I would like to put a few large pots of plants and flowers on my front patio but it's mostly shaded during the day. W...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for seasonal poor drainage
May 16, 2006
I have an area in my front yard that has a drainage ditch running through it. When it rains, that area stays very wet. What kind of plants available for sale will work in this situation?
view the full question and answer

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:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 1004 Collected Nov 4, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 281 - Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas (1999) Diggs, G. M.; B. L. Lipscomb; B. O'Kennon; W. F...

Search More Titles in Bibliography

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

Research Literature

Reslit 2636 - Developmental gametophyte morphology of seven species of Thelypteris subg. Cyclosorus (Thelypteridaceae) (2008) M. E. Muniz-Diaz De Leon, B. Perez-Garcia, J. Marq...
Reslit 2637 - Controlled freezing of twenty-three container-grown herbaceous perennials (1995) T. A. Herrick, L. P. Perry
Reslit 2638 - Isoprene emissions and photosynthesis in three fernsthe influence of light and temperature (1987) D. T. Tingey, R. C. Evans, E. H. Bates, M. L. Gump...
Reslit 2639 - Photocontrol of spore germination in the fern Thelypteris kunthii (1981) C. S. Huckaby, V. Raghavan

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-28
Research By: LAL, JMS

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