Plant of the Week: Christmas Fern

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Author: 
John Gunderson
Photo by Friends of the High LineThe Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, adds a welcome touch of green to our winter landscape. Photo by Friends of the High Line

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

Polystichum acrostichoides, also known as the Christmas fern, is a North American evergreen fern. Its native range includes Nova Scotia to Wisconsin and south from Florida to Texas. It is commonly found in organically rich eastern North American woodlands. On the High Line it is easily identified in winter with its shiny dark green fronds, which can be seen in the woodland understories contrasting against the gravel and/or snow.

A tea made from the root was used by Native Americans as a fever reducer and as a cure for stomachaches. Historically used in holiday decorations, this welcome touch of greenery in the chilly December landscape is why this plant is commonly referred to as the Christmas fern.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
The evergreen fronds of Christmas fern can be found on the High Line from Gansevoort Street to Little West 12th Street, and under the Philip A. and Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover from West 25th Street to West 27th Street.

Download our January Bloom Guide.