©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION


Scientific name: Dryopteris filix-mas
A classic fern of woodlands across the UK, the male-fern is also a great addition to any garden. It grows impressive stands from underground rhizomes, dying back in autumn.

Species information


Height: up to 1.15m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The male-fern is a large, clump-forming fern that is common in woodlands, hedgerows and ditches throughout the UK. Fresh green fronds unfurl from scaly, brown, underground rhizomes that push through the soil in mid-spring. These grow in height in the summer to form impressive stands, but will die back later in the year. Male-ferns are hardy plants and can survive in quite dry conditions, so are ideal for gardens - plant them in shade or borders for attractive, natural cover.

How to identify

The male-fern is one of a number of similar species, including buckler-ferns and Lady-fern, which are difficult to tell apart. Male-fern fronds are separated into tapering leaflets, deeply divided and coming out from the main stem in opposite pairs.



Did you know?

Male-ferns are one of the food plants of the Angle Shades moth caterpillar; adults can be seen from May to October and look like crumpled leaves.