Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Christmas Fern - Polystichum acrostichoides   (Michaux) Schott
Members of Dryopteridaceae:
Only member of Polystichum in NC.
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Section 2 » Order Polypodiales » Family Dryopteridaceae
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Author(Michaux) Schott
DistributionEssentially throughout, but absent from the Outer Banks.

This is a very widespread species in the East, ranging from eastern Canada south to northern FL (rarely to southern FL), eastern TX, and northeastern Mex.
AbundanceVery common in the Mountains and Piedmont; generally common in most of the Coastal Plain, but only fairly common in some central and southern counties there, and scarce in the far eastern counties.
HabitatThis species occurs in a great variety of wooded habitats. It favors mesic to rich soil of slopes, but it also occurs in bottomlands and in drier and rockier forests. It is a characteristic species of Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests, as well as Acidic Cove Forests. It commonly grows along wooded stream banks, as well.
PhenologyFruits from June to November.
IdentificationThis is a very familiar species, even to the layperson; it hardly needs to be described. It is evergreen, growing in clumps from a base, with a stipe about 6-9 inches long, and a blade about 1.5 inches long. The blades are just pinnate, with a very distinct lobe at the base of each pinna, pointed upward. There are about 20-35 pairs of pinnae, alternate, oblong in shape and about 2-3 inches long and 1/2-inch wide, with barely toothed margins. The upper 10 or more pairs are much smaller and are the fertile pinnae, with the rounded sori on the undersides of them, in single rows along the midrib. The lower pinnae are sterile ones with no sori. It is difficult to miss this species on many woodland walks, and as it is evergreen, it is very easily noted in the colder months.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieMoore County, mesic slope near Little River, 2015. MoorePhoto_natural
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