Herb: Christmas Fern

Latin name: Polystichum acrostichoides

Synonyms: Nephrodium acrostichoides

Family: Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Christmas Fern:

Christmas fern was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes, who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. A tea made from the root is blood purifier, emetic and febrifuge. It is used in the treatment of chills, fevers, pneumonia, stomach or bowel complaints and rheumatism. A poultice of the root is used in the treatment of rheumatism. A decoction of the root has been massaged into rheumatic joints. The powdered root has been inhaled and then coughed up in order to restore the voice.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Wet woods and rocky slopes. Forest floor and shady, rocky slopes from sea level to 1500 metres.

Edible parts of Christmas Fern:

Young fronds. No more details are given, but they are probably harvested as they unfurl and eaten cooked.

Propagation of the herb:

Spores - best sown as soon as they are ripe, though they can also be sown in the spring. Sow them on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep humid until they are well established. Do not plant outside until the ferns are at least 2 years old and then only in a very well sheltered position. Division. This is best done in the spring.

Cultivation of Christmas Fern:

Wet woods and rocky slopes. Forest floor and shady, rocky slopes from sea level to 1500 metres.

Known hazards of Polystichum acrostichoides:

Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.