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Gymnocarpium dryopteris - (L.) Newman

Common Name Northern oak fern
Family Cystopteridaceae
USDA hardiness 2-7
Known Hazards None Known
Habitats Shady, moist woods, streambanks and wet cliffs preferring mixed coniferous forests. It is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.
Range Widespread across much of North America and Eurasia. It has been found in Canada, the United States, Greenland, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and most of Europe.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Gymnocarpium dryopteris Northern oak fern
Gymnocarpium dryopteris Northern oak fern


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of fern
Gymnocarpium dryopteris is a deciduous Fern growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Aspidium dryopteris Baumg. Carpogymnia dryopteris (L.) Á. Löve & D. Löve. Currania dryopteris (L.) Wherry. Dryopteris dryopteris Britton. Dryopteris linnaeana C. Chr. Dryopteris pulchella (Salisb.) Hayek. Dryopteris pumila V.I. Krecz. Filix pumila Gilib. G. dryopteris subsp. dryopteris. G. dryopteris var. dryopteris. Lastrea dryopteris (L.) attr. by authors to Bory. Nephrodium dryopteris (L.) Michx. Phegopteris dryopteris (L.) Fée. Polypodium dryopteris L. Polypodium pulchellum Salisb. Thelypteris dryopteris (L.) Sloss.


Edible Uses

None Known


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known


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Other Uses

A good medium density groundcover for a woodland garden; their lush, bright green fronds brighten a dark forest floor. Grizzly Bear and Elk have been observed eating Oak Fern. Locations: Accent: Good Texture/Form. Flower borders and beds. Ground Cover. Cottage & Informal. Garden Architectural. Massed. Wild Flower. Woodland. Cut Flower (leaf). Containers.

Special Uses

Food Forest  Ground Cover


Cultivation details

A small deciduous Mat forming fern with a slender creeping rhizome, and much-divided, triangular to ovate fronds. USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 - 7. Soil pH: 4.5 - 6.4. Growth Rate: Slow to moderate. Life Span: Long. Texture: Fine. Sun: Partial Shade, Shade. Prefers a neutral to acid, leafy, moist soil, enriched with garden compost, in deep shade. Soil Type: Loamy. Soil Moisture: Moderate. Minimum Root Depth: 12 inches (30cm). Root Type: Long Rhizome. Seasonal Interest: Spring-Fall. The broadly triangular leaves are divided into 3 approximately equal primary divisions, each turned to a heavily horizontal position. Sprawling, it often shows slightly twisted leaves and leaflets. Requires cool, moist, acidic soil. Good ground cover. Drought: Intolerant. Flood: Moderate. Salt: Sensitive. Soil Compaction: Intolerant. Mowing: Intolerant. Fire Damage: Intolerant. Cold Injury: Infrequent. Disease Issues: Minor. Insect/Pest Damage: Minor. Plant Concerns: Oak fern can interfere with the growth of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) seedlings. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons [1-2]. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length [1-2].


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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Sow spores at 15°C (59°F) when ripe or divide in spring

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Western oakfern, common oak fern, oak fern, northern oak fern

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Canada, the United States, Greenland, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and most of Europe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(L.) Newman

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