During medieval times, ferns were surrounded with fear, mysticism, and superstition. Ferns were mystical because they do not have seeds and reproduce by spores.

Mystical Ferns

Ferns are becoming increasingly popular. They can be used as background plantings, as major focal points in your garden, or unexpected discoveries on evening walks.

Native ferns, moss & grasses
William Cullina.
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, c2008.
  1. Includes bibliographical references (p. 242-243) and index.
  2. Introduction -- Statement on wild collecting -- What is a native plant? -- Understanding plant hardiness -- Cultivation -- pt. I: Ferns. Introduction to ferns -- Anatomy -- Encyclopedia of ferns -- pt. II: Mosses. Introduction to mosses -- Anatomy -- Gardening with mosses -- Encyclopedia of mosses -- pt. III: Grasses, sedges, and rushes. Introduction to grasses, sedges, and rushes -- Gardening with grasses -- Warm- versus cool-season grasses --
  3. Encyclopedia of grasses, sedges, and rushes -- pt. IV: Propagation. Introduction to propagation -- Propagation table -- Ferns and fern allies for various uses and conditions -- Grasses, sedges, and rushes for various uses and conditions -- Sources of native plants -- Native plant societies of the United States and Canada -- Related organizations -- Selected botanic gardens and arboreta specializing in native plant display collections and/or conservation -- Glossary.
Encyclopedia of garden ferns
Sue Olsen.
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2007.
"With their beauty and versatility, often combined with a toughness that belies their delicate appearance, ferns are among the most useful and rewarding plants that any gardener can grow. Ranging from diminutive rock-garden gems to the stately tree ferns of the Southern Hemisphere, ferns offer a staggering variety of habit and shape, with foliage comprising endless variations of green as well as bronze, pink, silver, and blue-gray. It all adds up to a dazzling array of choices, with new introductions pouring in from Asia and Central and South America to augment the already plentiful choices to be found among the more familiar species." "In this comprehensive reference, fern specialist Sue Olsen presents succinct descriptions, habitat information, and cultural recommendations for more than 960 ferns, accompanied by 700 color photographs. Early chapters focus on ferns in history, as well as on cultivation, propagation, and structure. A series of appendices highlights qualities that will enable gardeners to further refine their choices, such as which species will tolerate dry shade, boggy conditions, strong sunlight, or other special conditions. Rounding out the volume are useful lists (with contact information) of places to see and purchase ferns."--BOOK JACKET.
Filicineae, Gymnospermae, and other monocots, excluding Cyperaceae : ferns, conifers, and other monocots, excluding sedges
Robert H. Mohlenbrock.
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c2006.
Includes indexes.
A field guide to ferns and their related families : northeastern and central North America
Boughton Cobb and Elizabeth Farnsworth and Cheryl Lowe for the New England Wild Flower Society ; illustrations by Laura Louise Foster and Elizabeth Farnsworth.
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.
This compact reference is designed to aid botanists and plant enthusiasts in the identification of ferns and fern relatives in northeastern and central North America. The second edition has been updated to reflect changes in botanical names. It also features the addition of a glossary and new information on fern conservation and gardening. The text is accompanied throughout by detailed b&w line drawings and color photographs of the plants described. Annotation 2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Ferns may be grown in forests, water, mountains, or even cliffs. And ferns can grow in places where other desirable plants will not thrive. They are also easy to maintain.

Ferns offer a variety of attractive and distinct leaves. Some ferns are as high as trees. However, there are also ferns where the entire plant is less than thumb-size.


Different Types of Ferns

  • Hardy Ferns: Can be grown outdoors and tolerate winter temperatures. Also belonging to this group are alpine species. Hardy garden species are mostly native to northern and central Europe, North America, and northern Asia.
  • Semi-Hardy Ferns: Usually tolerate nighttime temperatures above 40F and survive periods of freezing temperatures that are short and not too severe. They are good choices for inland valleys along warmer coastal regions. Come from warm-temperate climates such as Japan, Korea, and China.
  • Semi-Tender Ferns: These grow well where nighttime temperatures are mostly above 50F and where freezing temperatures are rare. Many come from sub-tropical and warmer areas such as Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and southern coastal California.
  • Tender Ferns: Also known as warm or "stove" species, usually grow poorly when temperatures drop to 60F. These ferns are mostly native to the lowland tropics where year round warmth and humidity prevail. Southern Florida and the Hawaiian lowlands are particularly favorable places to grow tender ferns outdoors.

Since ferns grow under widely different conditions of soil and moisture, your walk, no matter where it takes you, may potentially uncover different types of ferns.  Keep your eyes open--remember some grow on the ground, some in trees.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff