Polystichum munitum

Western sword fern Epithet means "armed."

Evergreen, 3 to 5 ft. (90 to 150 cm). Zones 6 to 9.

description: The rhizome is erect and supports bushels of swordlike lush foliage—sometimes up to 50 fronds per clump. The short, grooved stipe displays medium to dark brown scales and is one-fifth of the frond length. The linear-lanceolate blade is once-pinnate with 30 to 50 pairs of burnished, rich green pinnae prominently auricled. The sori with peltate indusia trace the margins of the pinnae including the auricle.

range and habitat: Polystichum munitum is the ubiquitous understory fern in the soft decomposing-needle compost of coniferous forests in the pacific Northwest. it extends from

The handsome and reliable Polystichum makinoi with its lustrous fronds in the Gassner garden.

Polystichum mayebarae closely resembles P. tsus-simense.
Polystichum munitum in a natural setting at Elandan Gardens.

The sterile hybrid Polystichum munitum X P. andersonii is midway in structure between the parents and bears the typical P. andersonii bulbil on the tips of the fronds..

Backlighting highlights the sori on the margins of Polystichum munitum.

The sterile hybrid Polystichum munitum X P. andersonii is midway in structure between the parents and bears the typical P. andersonii bulbil on the tips of the fronds..

Alaska and British Columbia to California with an occasional disjunct station in Mexico (Guadalupe Islands) and South Dakota. Growing with evergreen upright fronds along forest walks and disturbed roadsides throughout the Northwest, it is a delight for the winter hiker and naturalist as well as for the foraging and hungry Roosevelt elk of the Olympic Peninsula, where this fern can reach 5 ft. (1.5 m) or more.

culture and comments: Were this species rare, there would be a tremendous demand (and price) for it. Adaptable, weather-resistant, and a multipurpose ornamental, the sword fern has "good bones" and settles with ease in maritime-moderated temperate climates. I have seen it in deep shade as well as full sun, although rather stressed in the latter sites and certainly not up to its potential proportions. It is highly recommended, as are most natives, as one of the best for beginning fern gardeners in the Pacific Northwest. Although unfazed when frequently snowbound in its native haunts, it suffers and declines in the typical summer heat and humidity in the eastern and southern United States (and is perhaps diminished by long freezing spells as well). Substitute Polystichum acrostichoides, P. rigens, P. polyblepharum, or others of the more heat-tolerant Asians. British and European gardeners grow it successfully. As expected with such densely massed large populations, occasionally there are some variations in frond and pinnae structure including crested and crisped forms.

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