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Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal woodfern)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Dryopteris marginalis

Dryopteris marginalis (L.) A. Gray

Marginal Woodfern, Marginal Fern, Marginal Shieldfern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)


USDA Symbol: drma4

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

The broad, dark, leathery, twice-pinnate, evergreen fronds of marginal wood fern are from 1-3 ft. high and as much as 10 in. wide. They arise in vase-like circles from the rootstock, which has a 1 to 4 inch-high crown and sends out shallow, non-colonizing roots radially. Fiddleheads arise in spring and are golden brown and furry.

A well-behaved, non-colonizing fern for the cool, eastern woodland landscape, this fern never becomes aggressive. In snowy winters, it can be glimpsed protruding through blankets of snow, its blue-green coloration in stately contrast to the surrounding white.


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Fern
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Size Notes: Normally about 20 inches tall, but can reach 3 feet
Leaf: Dark green

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON
Native Distribution: New England to e. Ont., s. to GA, TN, AR, e. OK, & e. KS. Eastern North America, Zones 5 to 7.
Native Habitat: Moist woods and ravines; Shaded, sandstone crevices; Rocky ledges

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium , High
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist, rocky, acidic, humus-rich soil. Tolerates lime.
Conditions Comments: This fern likes an oak leaf winter cover. Rather sensitive to heat.


Use Ornamental: An evergreen, clumping fern for cool eastern woodland landscapes
Use Wildlife: Provides cover for toads and lizards
Interesting Foliage: yes


Propagation Material: Root Division
Description: Propagate by root crown division and from spores.
Commercially Avail: yes

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Evergreen plants safe for horses in Louisville, Kentucky
May 16, 2010
I have a horse farm in Louisville, Ky. I want to plant evergreen plants along the walls in front of the horse barns. What types of plants are not toxic to horses can I use? Thank you so much for all y...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen screening shrubs for New York
May 27, 2008
I need evergreen screening shrubs that aren't too deep. The shrubs are to be planted along an existing wrought iron fence, which is a few feet behind a children's swing set.
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:

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 1231 - Guide To the Ferns of Grey and Bruce Counties, Ontario (1999) Owen Sound Field Naturalists
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2013-09-09
Research By: TWC Staff

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