©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION


Scientific name: Dryopteris filix-mas
A classic fern of woodlands across the UK, the male-fern is also a great addition to any garden. It grows impressive stands from underground rhizomes, dying back in autumn.

Species information


Height: up to 1.15m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The male-fern is a large, clump-forming fern that is common in woodlands, hedgerows and ditches throughout the UK. Fresh green fronds unfurl from scaly, brown, underground rhizomes that push through the soil in mid-spring. These grow in height in the summer to form impressive stands, but will die back later in the year. Male-ferns are hardy plants and can survive in quite dry conditions, so are ideal for gardens - plant them in shade or borders for attractive, natural cover.

How to identify

The male-fern is one of a number of similar species, including buckler-ferns and Lady-fern, which are difficult to tell apart. Male-fern fronds are separated into tapering leaflets, deeply divided and coming out from the main stem in opposite pairs.



Did you know?

Male-ferns are one of the food plants of the Angle Shades moth caterpillar; adults can be seen from May to October and look like crumpled leaves.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try planting native plants and trees to entice birds, mammals and invertebrates into your backyard? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.